Archive for the ‘Daily Duce’ Category

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Daily?

Shi Davidi of Sportsnet is quick to make clear exactly what I figured about the rumours of the Jays talking to ex-Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long, saying that Kevin Seitzer is expected to return as the club’s hitting coach. “The Blue Jays as a matter of process speak with many available coaches to see if there’s a fit anywhere in the organization,” he explains.

Whoa. WTF?? According to a tweet from Ken Rosenthal, Rays GM Andrew Friedman is leaving the AL East and will take over for Ned Colletti as GM of the Dodgers. That’s big. (Colletti will stay on as an advisor or some such thing).

Over the weekend, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that the Seattle Mariners front office — as well as their new, expensive signing, Robinson Cano — wanted to sign Nelson Cruz last winter, but their plans were scuppered by ownership, who refused to touch anyone with P.E.D. issues. Does this remove what could have been a very strong suitor for Melky Cabrera this winter? Let’s hope! (Since we’re still pipe-dreamin’ that the Jays get him back, right?)

Speaking of pending free agents, MLBTR’s latest is a continuation of their Free Agent Profile series, which today looks at Melky Cabrera. “A number of teams will be looking for offense in a thin market for bats, and Cabrera’s will be one of the best out there. The Orioles, Tigers, Royals, White Sox, Twins, Mariners, Rangers, Giants, Padres, Reds, Phillies and Mets could all be in the market for an outfield upgrade, so Cabrera’s representatives at the Legacy Agency will have no shortage of teams with which to converse,” writes Steve Adam, noting also that the White Sox, Twins, Rangers, and Phillies  Among those clubs, the White Sox, Twins, Rangers and Phillies would have a protected first-round pick. “I feel the $36-45MM figure floated past the Toronto Star’s Brendan Kennedy in a survey of rival agents was low. Cabrera can rightly claim that he’s one of the best bats on the market at a relatively young age, and that’s enough for me to predict a perhaps unnecessarily specific five-year, $66.25MM contract (Peralta’s contract with an extra year at the same AAV).” Yeesh.

At MLBTR last week they did a Free Agent Profile on Colby Rasmus, which… was less glowing. “I believe Rasmus will prioritize finding the right fit over maxing his earnings, whether on a one-year or multi-year deal,” writes Jeff Todd. “I do find a make-good contract to be the likelier outcome, and think that Rasmus will be able to reach $12MM on a one-year deal. But I would not be surprised if he ultimately scores a three-year pact.” I’d say that if it wouldn’t take away from whatever else the Jays might want to do — which it wouldn’t, so it’s a moot point — making Colby the qualifying offer might not be entirely crazy. Except that with the draft pick tied around his neck his market changes significantly and he totally accepts it. I’d really like to see what Dalton Pompey can do, myself.

Rasmus won’t be offered a qualifying offer, nor will Casey Janssen, of course, as Mike Wilner reported at Sportsnet last week. No shocks there.

Moving along, Steve Simmons vomits into our mouths at the Toronto Sun, dumbing down the discourse by using the examples of this year’s playoff teams to tell us that the Jays don’t have to spend to make the playoffs. We all know that’s true, of course, but the implication of this sort of nonsense, and the goofy attempt to implore his readers to see what’s supposedly in front of their noses — “It isn’t about payroll with the Blue Jays. It’s about spending the money wisely. It’s about player development. It’s about team. It’s about trust. It’s about performance. The money is there. The results are not.” — reduces a complex matter to a bunch of platitudes. Oh… I’m sorry… is it obvious that I can’t stand this sort of empowerment of mouth-breather mantras that overlook things like the division the Jays play in, the unbalanced schedule, and the specific reality of their current predicament? Sure, all that stuff in the abstract is totally true. But if the Jays want to be better in 2015, they need to spend more. If the Jays want to be good and maintain a player development pipeline and spend future money wisely (by keeping as many quality homegrown players possible and not destroying their pipeline through trades), they need to spend more now in order to fill in their current gaps. Hey, but let’s pretend this is all uncomplicated and WAHHHHHHH!

Elsewhere in the Sun, Mike Rutsey reports that Marcus Stroman contacted Caleb Joseph of the Orioles about the incident that got him suspended in September. “He got my number and we spoke and as far as things are concerned with me it’s a fresh, clean slate, start over. We’ll move on. I don’t have any desire to drag it out, hold grudges. This game is much bigger than a grudge that Caleb Joseph may want to have or not, it doesn’t matter. We spoke and I think things are good between us and hopefully we’ll have good competition the rest of the way out,” Joseph explained. “Honestly, right now I’m just so excited to be here in the post-season. I kind of forgot about it to be honest with you. It’s not my place to judge intent and honestly I could care less.”

More from the Sun, as Bob Elliott looks at the Kansas City Royals’ Canadian connection, the rave reviews given Buck Showalter by too-valued Jays advisor Mel Didier, and the resignation (cue garbage clowns) of the Jays southeastern cross checker, scout Rob St. Julien.

Roberto Osuna debuted last week in the Arizona Fall League, and… uh… if you haven’t heard, it didn’t go so well. Charlie Caskey writes about the outing for the Vancouver Sun, and offers some hope: “Grasping at straws, but as Clutchlings reminded me, Aaron Sanchez had a pretty rocky AFL debut. He only got better from there.”

Speaking of Osuna, last week Carson Cistulli of FanGraphs looked at the top ten 2015 prospects by projected WAR, and while no Jays made the list, no pitchers made the list either. If there was a list for pitchers, though, Osuna would find himself third, behind Lucas Giolito of the Nationals and the Marlins’ Andrew Heaney.

Interesting stuff, as always, from Nick Ashbourne of Bluebird Banter, as he takes a look at Edwin Encarnacion’s trouble with breaking pitches.

And from Blue Jays Plus, Greg Wisniewski follows up on the question of what to do with Aaron Sanchez, while Austin Gooder examines what went wrong with Colby Rasmus during his tenure with the Jays.

Great stuff from Harry Pavlidis of Baseball Prospectus on Fox’s alternative, stats-oriented broadcast of game two of the NLCS over the weekend.

Marcus Stroman made Baseball America’s All-Rookie team, because… of course he did.

The Jays added pitcher Bo Schultz last week. Unless his nickname is “Dutch,” meh.

At BlueJays.com, Gregor Chisholm has an excellent mail bag up, which should totally help those of you who, like myself, are feeling Griff Bag withdrawal.

Lastly, I was on a very special baseball-themed edition of local movie podcast The Dew Over, as lent my inner ghoul to a talk about the top baseball movies of all time. Have a listen!

And speaking of podcast, up shortly at Your Van C’s will be the latest edition of theirs, which features Anthony Alford and Tom Robson. Check it out!

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Today’s biggest Jays news: Marcus Stroman will switch his jersey number to six next year. He also tweets out a preview of what the new shirt will look like. “Wearing #6 in the 6!” he says. I don’t actually need to do a full post about this, do I?

Bob Elliott wrote last week in the Toronto Sun about potential Jays targets in free agency who were playing it the Orioles-Tigers series, singling out O’s reliever Andrew Miller, and Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter, who he says the Jays attempted to sign heading into 2013, only to be spurned and go after Melky Cabrera instead. Well that’s something.

This is also something: the Jays are looking for a pair of interns — one is an analytics intern, the other a scouting intern. The links here go to the job postings on Rogers’ site. Though you won’t see any of the pay terms noted, I’m told it pays $12.75 an hour for a 35 hour week. The glamorous world of a pro baseball front office!

Awesomeness from Jonah Birenbaum at theScore, as he looks at the unexpected durability of Jose Reyes.

At BlueJays.com, Gregor Chisholm has a great position-by-position look at where the Jays are at and what they need to do this off-season.

Another one at BlueJays.com looks back on the highs and lows of the 2014 season. Great stuff.

Last week Richard Griffin wrote some silly thing in the Toronto Star, ranking this year’s playoff rotations, and suggesting that “this year’s playoffs would have been a short run for the Jays if they’d made it” because theirs wouldn’t have been able to compete with the likes of the already-eliminated Tigers and the down-2-0 Nationals. In fact, his fifth-, sixth-, and seventh-ranked of the eight rotations are either already through or up 2-0. So…

Interesting stuff at Baseball Prospectus, as Doug Thorburn gives a detailed scouting report on Dan Norris’s less-than-impressive first start. Many caveats about how long it had been since he started a game were necessary, because as you’d might expect, he felt that Norris showed that there’s sill lots of room for improvement. “Norris has an arm slot that can hover around one o’clock on the clock-face, depending on the degree of spine-tilt on that particular pitch, and he augments that tilt with a high angle of shoulder abduction. The net result is a 6.4-foot release height (Z score of 0.56) that gives him the potential for downhill plane if he can hone his command at the bottom of the strike zone,” he explains, on the positive front. On the negative? “The stuff appears relatively modest given the tease of his minor-league numbers, and though the heat should be an asset, his secondary pitches were more intriguing during Norris’ cup of coffee. The curveball was a looper that ran anywhere from 70-75 mph and which he typically threw with two-plane break, though it did get more vertical at times. The pitch appeared to leave his hand with a non-fastball trajectory and a hump in the flight path, meaning that he will need sick movement on the pitch to fool MLB hitters who can identify it quickly.”

John Lott of the National Post spoke to Colby Rasmus before the free agent outfielder left Toronto to embark on a new adventure — in the wilderness of Montana — before he hits the open market.

Matt Eddy’s latest minor league transactions update at Baseball America reveals a number of Jays minor leaguers who have (unsurprisingly) elected free agency: RHP Bobby Korecky, LHP Brad Mills, LHP Raul Valdes, 1B Dan Johnson, SS Jonathan Diaz, OF Cole Gillespie, OF Darin Mastroianni.

In the final The 30 of the season at Grantland, Jonah Keri places the Jays in 13th and lauds the starting pitching depth their system has produced.

FanGROFs Alert! It’s GROF on FOX, as he takes the reins of FanGraphs’s content sharing scheme and looks at the benefits of situational pitching. Awesome.

Great stuff at Blue Jays Plus, as Chris Sherwin goes under the hood on Dioner Navarro, and when it comes to his receiving… um… it’s not good. Meanwhile, Isaac Boloten gives a report card on Jays’ starters, and as you might expect, it’s glowing.

Lastly, a couple of Jays-related tidbits from Keith Law’s chat with readers last week at ESPN.com

Jeffrey (Ottawa)
It looks like Toronto will be using at least one young OF next season. Who would you play? Pillar, Gose or go with Pompey?
Klaw
Pompey. Don’t think the other two hit enough to matter.

David (Toronto)
A large number of Toronto media members are pushing the idea that Aaron Sanchez should be there Blue Jays closer next year. That is crazy, right?
Klaw
Yes, wastes his ability.

Kirk (The TC)
I’m sure you’ll have some sort of write up RE: the Arizona Fall League next week when it kicks off, but right now off the top of your head, who are the top guys you are looking forward to seeing? Is everyone (or at least even more than usual) going to be flocking to see Buxton just to see what he can do coming back from his lost 2014?
Klaw
Appel, Rusney, Buxton, Bell, Lindor, Zimmer, Osuna, Glasnow … it’s loaded.

Love the Pompey stuff, and while KLaw has been a little down on Sanchez over the last year or more, he’s obviously not that down. ICYMI, I wrote about this issue last week. And putting Osuna in with that group? Yowza. Pompey is going to be there as well — should be some good stuff for Jays fans to watch in the coming weeks.

Lastly lastly: Lately Facebook changed its algorithm 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.

And while we’re at it, you might as well follow me on Twitter, follow @DrunkJaysFans, and follow the dusty ol’ DJF Instagram too!

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Outstanding stuff here from Arden Zwelling of Sportsnet, as he looks at the remarkable rise of Dalton Pompey — who I still say is a better option to start on Opening Day 2015 than anything else the Jays have got, crazy as that sounds, and unseasoned as he might be. And with jobs even more on the line than they were this year, and a full spring training to prove it (not to mention the rest of this end-of-season cameo, and a trip to the Arizona Fall League — assuming he still goes), I really think it’s possible the club ends up agreeing. They like him enough, or at least ol’ Gibbers does, that he was leading off this afternoon against the Mariners. What do you think the odds are that Gose or Pillar ever get that kind of an assignment?

Elsewhere at Sportsnet, “Gibbons loves what Pompey offers,” says the headline of a piece from Ben Nicholson-Smith. See?

Meanwhile, you probably heard about this, but earlier in the week Shi Davidi wrote about the possible end of the road as Blue Jays for Casey Janssen and Adam Lind, both of whom have been here a very long time, and one of whom (Janssen) is heading towards free agency, while the other (uh… Lind?) goes once again to club option limbo. Or, at least, he theoretically does, though the Jays picking up the $7.5-million option for a player who, against right-handed pitching, has the same wRC+ over the last two seasons as Yasiel Puig and Andrew McCutchen (who themselves are just one and two points behind Robinson Cano, Freddie Freeman, and David Ortiz, with only Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout being better) is as giant a fucking no-brainer as it gets. But Lind said some nonsense about expecting to be told one way or the other — even though it’s not remotely in the team’s interest to tell him –and it became a bit of a thing. Except… it’s not. Lind can dumbly gripe all he wants, the Jays are going to do what they’re going to do. And what they’re going to do is, they’re going to pick up that option. Obviously.

Over at the Toronto Star, Richard Griffin makes the case that last night should have been Mark Buehrle’s final appearance as a member of the Blue Jays. Yeah, they should probably trade him.

Amazing stuff on the end of the Mariners season from Matt Ellis of Lookout Landing, many of which will ring absolutely true for Blue Jays fans, as well.

Scott MacArthur of TSN continues his series of excellent season-ending chats with members of the Jays, as he speaks to Drew Hutchison and Mark Buehrle about their seasons and their futures — and does so on a pretty spiffy looking new TSN.ca, I might add.

Speaking of the club’s starters, at Blue Jays Plus, Gideon Turk looks at J.A. Happ and the importance of pitching depth.

Sticking with the season retrospective theme, Robert MacLeod of the Globe and Mail talks to R.A. Dickey, as the pitcher reflects on a season that was actually pretty decent for him, individually, once you get past all the high expectations.

The Tao Of Stieb gives his always-interesting reflections on the season.

In the Toronto Sun, Bob Elliott asks whether each of Paul Beeston, Alex Anthopoulos, and John Gibbons will be back — answering in the affirmative for all of them, at least according to his educated guesses. But there isn’t full certainty yet. “Some of Beeston’s friends say he isn’t coming back,” Elliott writes. “Others say he is.”

In the National Post, Scott Stinson has an interesting, thoughtful look at how the Jays ended up the about-to-be holders of MLB’s longest playoff futility streak, which he almost upends entirely with one silly, splashy attempt at provocation: suggesting that they’re becoming baseball’s version of the Buffalo Bills.

An update on something I was writing about in this week’s Griff Bag — Jesse Goldberg-Strassler, broadcaster for the Lansing Lugnuts, clarified something for me having to do with my response about Kendall Graveman. I wrote that Graveman’s velocity was considered fringy (though “fringe-average” is more like the term I’d read), and suggested that the fact he’s been sitting at 93 in the majors is “surely” based on the fact that he’s pitching out of the bullpen. Not so fast! Jesse tweets that “a fatigued Graveman threw 85-88 in 2013; he has thrown consistently 93 mph in 2014.” Well that’s kind of awesome — and probably has had a hand in his looking better than almost everybody expected, too.

I’m always quick to point out when folks from places like Baseball Prospectus are high on Jays prospects, so I guess I’d better do it when they’re not. With that in mind, in this week’s Dynasty Dynamics piece, Ben Carsley and Craig Goldstein look at several players they feel it’s time for dynasty league players to get away from, including the Jays’ own D.J. Davis. “Davis has spent three years in the Blue Jays system and finally spent his first year in full-season ball, posting an OPS of .583. While power was never a part of his game, Davis was/is supposed to profile atop the lineup, and a .268 OBP isn’t going to cut it,” they explain. “His best asset is his game-changing speed; unfortunately, he changed things for the worse for Lansing this year, getting caught 20 times en route to swiping 19 bags.” Yeesh.

Elsewhere at BP, and on that same sort of note, this week’s Monday Morning Ten Pack looked at ten of the most disappointing prospects of 2014, and two more Jays made the list: Alberto Tirado and Aaron Sanchez. Yes, Aaron Sanchez. “I knew what I was getting into when I saw Aaron Sanchez on the Double-A New Hampshire roster to start the 2014 season. I had seen him plenty in the Midwest League in 2012, and I had heard about all the wonderful strides he made throughout 2013 in High-A. Maybe that was part of the problem; my expectations for Sanchez may have been too high. I expected to bear witness to a budding front-of-the-rotation horse who would spend the majority of the season dominating the competition. Instead, I spent the summer watching seven games from one of the most enigmatic starters I have seen at Double-A in the last few years. Sanchez battled his delivery from game to game, inning to inning, and even pitch to pitch. As he struggled with consistency in advance of release, his results were all over the map,” Mark Anderson explains. “It is obvious Sanchez can get big-league hitters out, and he will be able to accomplish that over the long haul, but after scouting nearly 50 innings from him this summer, I remain far from convinced that the former first-round pick can be an impact starting pitcher, a conclusion I could not envision when the season began.” You can’t exactly say it’s unfair.

Interesting stuff, as always, from Nick Ashbourne of Bluebird Banter, as he tells us that the Blue Jays’ pitching isn’t all that different from what it was in 2013. Sounds crazy until you realize, the good parts and the bad parts of the staff have simply flipped — the starters have been better, but the staff as a whole was evened out by the fact that the relievers were so much worse.

Elsewhere at Bluebird Banter, Tom Dakers begins a “should he stay or should he go” series by looking at hitting coach Kevin Seitzer.

Back to prospect stuff, as John Sickels of Minor League Ball reviews his pre-season top Jays prospects list (which includes his pre-season grades, not current ones, just so we’re clear), giving us tidbits and his thoughts on the seasons put in by the best guys in the system.

At BlueJays.com, Gregor Chisholm tells us about the winners of this year’s Howard R. Webster Awards, which go to the team MVPs at each level of the Jays’ system, which include Kevin Pillar, Mitch Nay, Dwight Smith Jr., and Franklin Barreto. Had they stayed at one level, of course, you might see names like Dan Norris, Dalton Pompey, Kendall Graveman, and Aaron Sanchez here.

Charlie Caskey of Your Van C’s takes a look at the Canadians’ season in review, while Brian Crawford of Jays Prospects looks at Jimmy Cordero, who has been exploding radar guns at Lansing, with a fastball that’s touched 101.

MLBTR passes along a report that says Josh Willingham is going to retire after this season, which is maybe a blessing in disguise. I thought he might be a guy the Jays would consider turning to this winter if they were unable to keep Melky Cabrera, but… that probably wouldn’t have been a great idea if they did.

Great stuff at Grantland, as Ben Lindbergh writes about Sabermetrics and the Pirates, while this week’s Jonah Keri Podcast features legendary Jays scout Mel Didier.

Speaking of podcasts, Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star chatted with Buster Olney on today’s edition of the Baseball Tonight podcast at ESPN.com.

Elsewhere at ESPN, Keith Law lists a number of players who have exceeded his expectations this year, and naturally one of them is Yan Gomes. Good for Gomes! And as much as it hurts that he’s doing it in Cleveland, KLaw reminds that when he was traded, “Gomes was a fringy bat without a clear position. He had very little minor league experience overall, with just 172 games behind the plate before the trade. He was only a part-time catcher with some arm strength, but none of the refined skills that would point to him excelling at the position.” Now, it’s not great that the Jays missed so badly all the potential that was sitting in their organization, but it’s a little more understandable that they got so little for him. And, of course, he was playing at the same level as Travis d’Arnaud during each of his three years in full season ball in the Jays organization — and he was still behind d’Arnaud and Arencibia on the depth chart when he left. Doesn’t make it feel much better, does it?

At FanGraphs this week, Dave Cameron handed in his hypothetical AL MVP ballot, and Jose Bautista ended up fifth. I can live with that! And though “Michael Brantley without the baserunning” may sound like a back-handed compliment, he has Brantley way up at number two.

Tom Scocca’s Derek Jeter Was OK piece at Deadspin is pretty damn delicious.

Lastly, something heartbreaking. I’m not sure how much time anyone here spends at Batter’s Box, but over there this week, Gerry McDonald informed their readers that their contributor, John Northey, has recently lost his wife due to complications from childbirth. “We don’t know if any of you have had to go through something like this,” Gerry writes. “We don’t know if any of you are single parents. But John is looking for any advice you might have. The old saying is a problem shared is a problem halved so we hope some of you might be able to help.”

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Daily? Not even close! In fact, as you’ve surely noticed, I’ve been finding it tough to push through the apathy for this team and this season that finally settled in around me this week, with the Jays losing five straight, slipping again behind both the Yankees and Cleveland, even as the Wild Card holders in Oakland and Kansas City have stumbled. Of course, it’s pointless to get frustrated about five individual games. Baseball is about the big picture, and in the big picture, the Jays were pretty much right where we thought they’d be: mediocre. There are all kinds of reasons why and all kinds of things they can do to get better next year — don’t let anybody tell you they’re not close — and, oddly, it will be something of a relief in the coming days to start assessing the wreckage and looking towards the future. Sorry, but Mark Buehrle’s quest for 200 innings just doesn’t do it for me. And speaking of the future…

This piece should be marked NSFW, because holy shit. Jeff Long of Baseball Prospectus lectures us on “The Dangerous Business Of Comparing Stroman To Maddux” as he goes about comparing Marcus Stroman to Greg Maddux. Yowza! Conclusion? “Consistent release points to hide the ball. Late, hard break on all of his pitches, making it difficult for hitters to decipher one pitch from another. Excellent control of his pitches, minimizing the damage done by free passes. Those three characteristics describe Marcus Stroman. They also describe Hall of Famer Greg Maddux. Fine, we didn’t get so far as proving that Stroman’s got anything like Maddux’s future, and Stroman hasn’t gone so far as proving it himself. Until he does, he’ll have to settle for using many of the tenets that made Maddux great—and he’ll have to settle for being “merely” on the cusp of being an ace.”

Speaking of the future, J.J. Cooper chatted last week at Baseball America, in the wake of their naming Kris Bryant — one-time Jays draftee! — as their minor league player of the year. In the piece he laid this on us: “ If we picked a pitcher of the year, it probably would have been Norris edging Glasnow. Norris getting the edge because he pitched at four levels this year while Glasnow stayed in hiA. But as good as both of their years were, they didn’t compare in our eyes to the season Bryant had.” Fair enough. And also: nails much?

Elsewhere at BA, last week they named their all prospect team for August, which included a pair of Jays farmhands: Franklin Barreto and Jairo Labourt, the latter of whom “ led the Northwest League in ERA (1.77), opponent average (.188) and strikeout rate (10.4 per nine innings), indicating the extent of the 20-year-old’s ceiling.”

Blue Jays Plus points us to a BA piece letting us know that the Jays have extended their agreements with the Lansing Lugnuts and the Bluefield Blue Jays, meaning that all the Jays affiliates will return in 2015.

Back to BP, where this week’s Monday Morning Ten Pack listed prospects who exceeded their expectations in 2014, and first up is Dalton Pompey. Chris Mellen writes that Pompey has been a nice surprise “not so much in regards to identifying the raw tools and what they indicate for his overall potential, but in how quickly things have clicked for a player who was just finishing up his first full-season campaign a year ago.”

Speaking of Pompey, John Lott tweets out the Jays’ lineup for tonight, and Pompey is in it — his first MLB start. Nice!

Keith Law revealed his prospects of the year this week at ESPN.com, and unsurprisingly, Daniel Norris was one of the ten he short-listed. “He might be in Toronto’s rotation in 2015,” he says, “which is a remarkable leap for a pitcher who spent 2013 in the low-A Midwest League, walking a man every other inning. ” Indeed.

At FanGraphs, David Laurila talks to Dalton Pompey, who he says “ has catapulted himself from promising prospect to star-in-the-making.” The player himself gives a lot of the credit to Steve Springer, the Jays’ “performance coach,” who helps him with the mental side of the game. Interesting stuff.

More Pompey stuff from Melissa Couto of the Canadian Baseball Network, as the young outfielder reveals that he had a conversation with Vernon Wells back in 2010. ““I told him he would have to move over to left because I was going to play centre one day soon,” he says. Nails much?

A pair from Brian Crawford at Jays Prospects, as he talks to Mitch Nay about his successful first trip through full season ball, and tells us about the rise of Miguel Castro through the Jays’ system.

Heading to the local mainstream press, we have Scott Stinson of the National Post, who last week wrote about how the Jays’ slim playoff odds belied a lot of promise for the future. Meanwhile, Richard Griffin writes similarly in the Toronto Star, singling out the club’s young arms as reason to be optimistic.

Ben Nicholson-Smith write about Norris for Sportsnet, looking at a pitcher who is quickly losing his fear of the unknown in the big leagues. A week earlier, he wrote about Aaron Sanchez, and how the right-hander’s elite stuff is leading to great results.

Elsewhere at Sportsnet, Shi Davidi tells us that the Jays won’t deter their young pitchers from throwing inside, despite Marcus Stroman’s suspension, and the tensions of this week’s series in Baltimore.

More from Sportsnet: Arden Zwelling writes about the two different exits being taken by the Jays and Orioles as the 2014 regular season winds down; Shi Davidi recaps last night’s loss to the Yankees, suggesting that the Jays don’t have much to work with right now, and it’s showing.

Three more particularly interesting ones from Davidi this week: he writes that the Jays expect to be competitive for Melky Cabrera; that, despite a less-than-glowing endorsement from his GM, John Gibbons’ job isn’t in jeopardy; and he explains why Steve Pearce chose the Baltimore Orioles, who has been a key cog for them this season — and who at one point this season was claimed by the Blue Jays.

Speaking of Melky, MLBTR looks at the market for him, and comes down on the side of sanity, not mentioning the Shin-Soo Choo deal, or something of five years or more, but highlighting Shane Victorino, Jhonny Peralta, and Curtis Granderson as possible comps. I can live with that — and better still, I think the Jays can live with that. But the lack of other outfield options on the market maybe changes things — though, honestly, I wouldn’t despair a Michael Cuddyer or Josh Willingham on a cheaper, shorter deal, I suppose.

Great stuff from John Lott of the National Post, as he digs up the details on Aaron Loup’s text message conversation with Nick Markakis, following a hit-by-pitch in Tuesday night’s game in Baltimore.

Elsewhere in the Post, Lott relays the not-terribly-apologetic response from Alex Anthopoulos following criticism from PETA about the Jays having tiger and lion cubs from the Bowmanville Zoo in their locker room prior to a game last week.

Mark Zwolinski of the Toronto Star talks to Roberto Alomar and Devon White about sliding headfirst into home, which they don’t recommend.

Todd Redmond has had his good deeds recognized, as Gregor Chisholm tells us at BlueJays.com that he has been named the team’s nominee for the Roberto Clemente award, “which honours the Major League Baseball player who best represents the game through positive contributions on and off the field.”

A tweet from our old friend GROF points us to a FanGraphs leaderboard showing the 19 players over the last five years to put up a wRC+ below 30 while being handed over 150 plate appearances. Fans of the 2014 Toronto Blue Jays will recognize one of the names on the list.

Interesting stuff here from Harvey Araton of the New York Times, as he looks back at the Opening Day 2003 incident involving Derek Jeter and Ken Huckaby — pivoting off a recent Sportsnet piece that Huckaby reportedly now says he regrets — and comes to the conclusion that Jeter “might consider giving one thing back — or taking back — a rare misstep made across nearly two decades of brilliance. Call up the Lansing Lugnuts, get a contact for the old catcher who 11 years ago landed on him with his tools of ignorance. Tell Ken Huckaby that he gets it now, he respects the effort, and leave it at that.”

Speaking of the Lugnuts, their broadcaster, Jesse Goldberg-Strassler was one of the panelists at last week’s excellent Pitch Talks events, and has provided a great roundup of what was discussed at The 2-2 Pitch, his blog about the Lugnuts. Great! Now I don’t have to!

At the Wall Street Journal, Kelly Johnson, who has now played for all five teams in the AL East, gives a guide to the cities in the division, saying that Toronto has the best food and the worst traffic — at least as far as the area around the ballpark is concerned. Seems reasonable.

Lastly, Bluebird Banter has a poll up asking readers if they approve of the job that Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler are doing as the Jays’ TV broadcasters. I know how I’m gonna vote!

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The Jays quest for the improbable continues tonight with another game against the Cubs, and with Cleveland and the Yankees not-so-firmly in their rear view. But a lead is a lead, and all the Jays have to do is keep on winning and they won’t have to worry about them again. Meaning that they’ll only need to worry about the Mariners (against whom they still have four games to play), and either the Royals or the Tigers, one of whom is guaranteed to lose tonight — they play each other, with the winner assuming control of the AL Central.

And what that means is that if Seattle loses to the Astros, and the Jays win, the Jays will sit just 3.5 games out of the second Wild Card spot, with seventeen games to play.

In fact, with the Jays and the AL Central clubs playing in the eastern time zone, it’s virtually guaranteed that, with a win, at some point tonight the Jays will be at 3.5 back — though a Mariners win would make them the holders of the spot, with the Jays four games back.

The thing about all this is, though, that they gotta win. So do it! Go Jays!

Next game(s): Friday, 7:07 PM ET vs. Tampa

For those of you who’ll be out and about, be sure to follow all the action on your phone with theScore app.

And now, the lineups… 

Toronto Blue Jays

SS Jose Reyes (S)
RF Jose Bautista (R)
DH Edwin Encarnacion (R)
1B Adam Lind (L)
C Dionner Navarro (S)
3B Danny Valencia (R)
LF Kevin Pillar (R)
2B Ryan Goins (L)
CF Anthony Gose (L)

RHP Drew Hutchison

Chicago Cubs

LF Chris Coghlan (L)
SS Javier Baez (R)
3B Luis Valbuena (L)
RF Jorge Soler (R)
C Wellington Castillo (R)
CF Ryan Kalish (L)
2B Arismendy Alcantara (S)
1B Mike Olt (R)
DH Logan Watkins (L)

RHP Kyle Hendricks

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Two days in a row!!?!?!

It’s been a while since the Daily Duce has actually been, y’know, daily, but maybe that’s changing. Maybe it’s just temporary, though. Either way, I needed to do one today, because our pal Drew dropped some science over at Ghostrunner On First, so this officially counts as an occasion. In the piece, Drew looks at what it means that the Jays are “not technically dead,” the easy target placed on John Gibbons’ back, and how the manager is, in fact, probably fucking awesome. Or, at least, that’s how I read it. Try it yourself!

Moving on, Drew’s colleague at FanGROFs, Mike Petriello, weighed in this morning on perhaps the single most important issue the Jays will face in the upcoming off-season: what will happen with Melky Cabrera. The crux: “While there’s some real reasons to question about him going forward, he’s also about to enter a market that is almost totally devoid of outfield offensive talent. Cabrera’s going to get paid, and it’s going to make a lot of people unhappy.” Petriello notes that, unfortunately for the Jays, there are several teams potentially in line for a protected draft pick who could certainly use an upgrade like Melky — who is by far the youngest, best outfield free agent on a very thin market this year. The Phillies, Padres, Astros, White Sox, Mets, and Reds are the ones he came up with off the top of his head, along with the Jays. That’s troublesome, but ultimately Mike doesn’t suggest a deal for Cabrera is going to be any more outlandish than what we’ve heard — the four-year, $60-million deal that Curtis Granderson signed with the Mets last year still appears to be the high water mark. One hopes.

Speaking of people being unhappy about what Cabrera will make this winter, Buster Olney, everybody! If you follow a link in Petriello’s piece you’ll find some high grade nonsense over at ESPN.com (Insider Olney), wherein it’s suggested that it’s “a really, really great idea that the union should consider” to limit guys who test positive a second time to one-year contracts. Yes, more hysteria. That sounds like a plan.

Moving on, we have some good news! The Rays, according to the Tampa Tribune, have shut down pitcher Drew Smyly for the season, meaning that the Jays will not have to face him when the Rays come to town on Friday. Nate Karns will be recalled to make the start. “Karns was 9-9 with a 5.08 ERA in 27 starts at Durham. He had 153 strikeouts in 145 1/3 innings,” we’re told. He’s coming off a 12 strikeout game, though.

Less good news: According to the New York Post, Masahiro Tanaka is feeling good after pitching a simulated game, and the Yankees are hoping to get him into one or two games before the season ends. Not only that, we’re told that Yankees manager Joe Girardi “said it’s possible Tanaka could pitch for the Yankees five days after [his next simulated game, tentatively scheduled for Sunday], setting up a potential return from the disabled list during the September 19-21 series against the Blue Jays at the Stadium.” Of course, if the Jays are in it enough by then for the possibility of facing TANAK to matter, um… I’ll totally take that.

Greg Wisniewski continues his outstanding “One At-Bat” series at Blue Jays Plus, looking at Brett Cecil’s dramatic two-out punch-out of the Rays’ Sean Rodriguez to preserve a ninth-inning scoreless tie that would be broken in the next frame by a pinch hit home run from Colby Rasmus.

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Think of how many rags he had to pick!

It’s been a while since I did one of these, so there is a tonne of great stuff to get to, but how can I not start with last night’s gem? As usual, John Lott’s game story in the National Post provides us an excellent recap.

As I noted in this morning’s GIF post, Marcus Stroman’s performance truly made one feel good about the future. But as we all know, the Jays’ future doesn’t hinge solely on him. Last week Ben Lindbergh of Grantland looked in-depth at five September call-ups that fans need to know about, and two of them were Blue Jays: Dan Norris and Dalton Pompey. He was, as you’d expect, a little less high on Pompey than Norris, suggesting that his rapid ascent this season might oversell his potential, and killing some of his maple dick buzz by reminding us that “he handed in his Canadian card when he admitted he’d never attended a hockey game before March of this year.” Still, though, great stuff.

Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet gave an excellent rundown of all the Jays’ call-ups last week, as well.

Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs looked at four of the same five call-ups as Lindbergh did, offering a scout’s take on both of the Jays’ prospects. On Norris he generally offers praise, explaining that “he still isn’t perfectly online, he can elevate at times when he locks his landing knee and these things lead to a flatter fastball and giving up more hard contact. That said, he’s athletic enough to make all of this work and, when it’s right, the stuff is electric. There’s 2/3 starter upside and Norris now has the command to get there much faster than many would’ve guessed before this season.” Pompey’s promtion, he thinks, is less of a good thing: “He has under 200 plate appearances above A-Ball, has a bigger stride/swing than most lead-off types and his dead hand load gives him some timing issues against advanced pitching. Pompey has hit his way to the big leagues, he offers speed and defense immediately and that could help prop up his batting average in the short-term, but this is a little premature.”

Elsewhere at FanGraphs, Carson Cistulli’s look at the week’s best fringe prospects includes Dwight Smith Jr., who got less hype than Pompey — and didn’t rise through the system the same way — but who exhibited a similar skill set to his former Dunedin outfield mate.

At FanGraphs’ sister site, RotoGraphs, Marc Hulet takes a fantasy focus and tells us about the top impact prospects in MLB among left-handed starters, and guess who heads the list? Yep. It’s Daniel Norris. (His piece on the top right-handed starting prospects has Aaron Sanchez coming in fourth — behind Taijuan Walker, Archie Bradley, and Lucas Giolito, but ahead of Noah Syndergaard and Dylan Bundy. Hmmm.)

Oh, and there’s still more: Jeff Moore and Ben Carsley of Baseball Prospectus offer some pretty nice praise for Pompey, from a fantasy perspective, explaining that, “depending on the Jays’ offseason moves and prospect graduations, Pompey could be a top-25 name when we start compiling prospect lists this offseason, and if for some reason he’s not owned in your dynasty league, you should rectify that immediately.” They also nail it with this one: “Anthony Gose could lose the most playing time to a Pompey since Pliny the Elder.” Wah wahhh!

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