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Archive for the ‘Keith Law’ Category

klawdredd

Keith Law of ESPN.com has been all over the Jays this week, and not necessarily in a good way. Actually, almost exclusively in a less-than-positive way, though not unfairly so. The thing is, though, he isn’t just exclusively picking at the low-hanging fruit like we’ve sort of been doing around here. He’s really poking a needle around a bunch of inflated hopes that fans have on the good side of this club. So if you’re not ready for bad news, or are just going to scream incoherently about bias, maybe just take this post off, thanks.

For those of you willing to indulge the dark side, though, follow me…

Notes From Dunedin

Back on Sunday afternoon at ESPN.com (Insider only) Law posted his notes from the Jays and Twins game he took in at Dunedin over the weekend, and while much of what he writes is about the Twins and their outstanding collection of up-and-coming talent. But as we all know, up-and-coming talent doesn’t always translate to the big league level — not immediately, and sometimes not ever. This is illustrated by the pair of comments Law zeroes in on after talking in relatively positive terms about Drew Hutchison: Kyle Drabek and Brett Lawrie.

Drabek, he says, was “ showing average to below-average stuff across the board,” and “used mostly cutters and two-seamers rather than the four-seamer, hitting 85-89 mph on the cutter, 87-89 on the two-seamer, commanding neither pitch and not getting enough life on the latter one.”

That’s not even the dagger, as he later adds that Drabek is “approaching two years since the surgery, so more of his stuff would be back by now if it is ever going to come back.” Ugh.

And Brett Lawrie? Double ugh.

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klawmoses

Keith Law’s outstanding annual top prospect and system-ranking work for ESPN.com was released this week, and unlike most years, I didn’t exactly rush to breathlessly reveal as much of it as could stomach. That’s no knock on Law, of course, it’s just that this is a bit of a down year for Jays prospects relative to the rest of the league — at least in his estimation — and it’s not like I was going to be shouting “We’ve got the 24th ranked system!” (which, according to Law, we do) from the rooftops. We all understand why that is, so there’s not much need to rehash it.

Or, we all can understand it, if we’re interested in hearing out his perspective on why some of the big talent lottery tickets the Jays have in the low minors couldn’t push them up the rankings, the way it did with other evaluators — Jason Parks at Baseball Prospectus, in particular, raved about what’s percolating up from the depths of the minors (and called it a top ten system). Fortunately, Law did elaborate on why the Jays rank where they do, on this week’s 2014-debut edition of his Behind The Dish podcast (with local boy made good, Adnan Virk, as his guest!).

To wit:

I love Aaron Sanchez, I’ve got him 30th overall on the list, but he’s not going to be ready to help them this year. There’s one starting pitching prospect in the system, Marcus Stroman, who I think could come up and make a difference for the Blue Jays at the big league level this year. Most of what I like about their system, if you look at the rest of the top ten, it’s a lot of short season guys. Guys who, especially Latin American signings from 2009 and 2010, under Marco Paddy, who now actually works for the White Sox, but did a nice job getting a lot of talent — a lot of hard throwers and a lot of middle infield prospects — into the system.

Those guys are turning 18, 19 now. They’re starting to pop, but they’re a ways a way. I mean you’re dreaming — I’m dreaming on a lot of these guys. I see the ability, I see the promise. But then, when I try to do these rankings, one through thirty, or when I’m just evaluating individual prospects, one thing I keep in the back of my mind is, ‘Would you trade this guy for that guy?’ ‘Would you trade Toronto’s system for the Orioles’ system?’ ‘Would you trade one for the other?’ And with Toronto, they kept coming out on the short end of the stick, because the fact is, the industry does not value short season players; 18-year-olds who’ve been in the Gulf Coast League, or the Arizona Rookie League, or the Appy league. They don’t value them very highly. Those guys, if you see them included in a trade — Neftali Feliz was something like the fourth of fifth player in that Mark Teixeira trade. I mean, he turned out to be tremendous, but at the time of the deal, I think a lot of people didn’t really know who he was, and he was seen as sort of a sleeper — an odd inclusion in the trade. Those guys still don’t move very often, because they’re just not valued within the industry. So, I look at the Blue Jays and say, ‘Two or three years from now this could be pretty special, because of all those 18-year-olds we’re talking about,’ but right now, if I’m being honest about how the industry perceives these guys, even if scouts like them, they just have very little trade value. The value of those players as assets is really quite low.

I think that makes total sense, but I think the way Parks sees it makes sense too. And the thing is, if you expect that a few of the short season guys take big steps forward this year — examples: Charlie Caskey of the Vancouver Province spoke to Alex Anthopoulos last week about Mitch Nay (no higher than 14th for Law), who the GM seemed especially high on, along with Franklin Barreto, who Law has at 8th in the system, saying many now think he’ll stick at shortstop, and “he has a chance to be an impact guy with the bat” — and if the club does well with the ninth and eleventh picks in June’s draft (and actually signs the players), this has all the makings of just a temporary ebb.

It’s not like the Jays have had trouble producing talent. I know I said it didn’t need rehashing, but the club did have six of Law’s top 100 in their system a year ago — Syndergaard (24), Sanchez (30), d’Arnaud (36), Stroman (58), Marisnick (84), and Nicolino (93) — it’s just that all but two are now playing elsewhere. Still, the only AL clubs to place that many, or more, products of their system on the list were the Astros, Red Sox (seven each), and Twins (six), and those were the first, fifth, and second-ranked clubs, overall. Sure, it hurts that the Jays no longer have that talent — doesn’t hurt so much that they have Reyes, Buehrle, and Dickey, though — but that they identified these guys and helped nurture them to where they did (even despite Law’s still-existent knocks on the mechanical changes made by Sanchez), is — sorry — a very positive thing.

Shit, there’s even more evidence of the good job they’ve done identifying prospects, as Baseball America recently ranked the top college prospects the next draft, and the fourth, fifth, and sixth spots went to players drafted out of high school by the Jays, who ultimately chose instead to go to college. Tyler Beede is the obvious one, since he was a first rounder (who, it should be noted, got the Jays the compensation pick they used on Marcus Stroman, so probably best not to complain about Young Beedah), but Aaron Nola (22nd round, 2011) and Luke Weaver (19th round, 2011) also fall into that category, though less crazily so, seeing as they’re in line to make a whole lot more money this time around. Aaaaand Perfect Game has Phil Bickford as the early leader as the top pick for 2016.

So… yeah. Identification doesn’t seem to be an issue. It would just maybe be nice if they could keep a few more these guys.

lawmoses

Before it gets too stale, and before a fresh round comes our way– and… y’know… because there isn’t a whole hell of a lot else to do at the moment– let’s catch up on some highlights from Keith Law’s most recent chat with readers over at ESPN.com!

And for good measure, let’s throw in a few items from the week before– even though it was the most recent Thursday chat that really took the direct route in terms of their Jays-related tidbits.

To wit:

From Thursday, November 15th

James (San Diego)
AFL aside, what does the future hold for Aaron Sanchez?
Klaw
Ace potential, but I’ve outlined my concerns with his delivery and still think that is a serious obstacle for him and the Jays.

I wrote about Sanchez yesterday, of course, and back on Thursday, and yeah… there are concerns about the short stride coming from more places than just Law. One of the issues, raised in yesterday’s piece, was about how the lack of stride impacted him, specifically, from the stretch. Funny– though certainly not “ha ha” funny– that similar concerns were being discussed yesterday about how Josh Johnson’s season went so badly awry, and that Brandon Morrow has had troubles from the stretch in the past, aaand how in today’s Daily Duce we noted a Gregor Chisholm piece where he suggested the club was re-thinking some of its player development strategy. Issues from the stretch weren’t specifically noted (and obviously Johnson was brand new to the organization this year), but still… interesting. Would be nice to see this, y’know, not be a thing.

 

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aaron-sanchez

As regular readers will surely be able to tell, this post began as a Daily Duce. There was just so much Aaron Sanchez stuff to go around, though, that I figured it would be a waste to combine what was really two posts, and devote a little more attention to the club’s top prospect, who pitched again last night in the Arizona Fall League (with some additional nuggets– like some Jays-related tidbits from last week’s KLawchat– thrown in for good measure). Apologies to those who really wanted to read about Gold Glove nominations, Fielding Bible awards, and an extended agreement with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats…

Aaron Sanchez had another good night in the AFL last night, though he did create a bit of a jam for himself in the fourth inning, which included trouble with high-end prospects Addison Russell and Jorge Soler, who singled and walked respectively. But there’s not a whole lot to dislike in the box score, apart from the three walks in 4.1 innings: just the one hit, no runs, and four strikeouts. Marcus Stroman gave up just a single hit in his one inning of work, as well.

“We’re out here with the best of the best and that’s where I want to be. You have to be on your game or something can go south real quick. It’s fun good to be out here with good competition and that’s where I want to be,” explained Sanchez, according to an MiLB.com recap of the outing, which took his AFL numbers to a sparkling 1.35 ERA and sub-1.00 WHIP with ten strikeouts, and an ugly eight walks, in 13.1 innings.

A tweet from Eno Sarris of FanGraphs sends us towards the latest AFL Trackman, which shows us AFL leaders by various intriguing metrics, and includes the fact that Sanchez’s average fastball velocity is highest among starters in the league (though he hasn’t quite topped out the way some of the other prospects have), and that his slider rotation bodes very well for his ability to miss bats with it at the big league level.

Partly based on that kind of outstanding stuff, Sanchez– as well as Marcus Stroman– will be taking part in the AFL’s Fall Stars Game, which takes place on Saturday and will be streamed live on MLB.com.

The reports aren’t all entirely good, however, so don’t go forgetting about all the consternation of last week quite yet…

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aaron-sanchez

With John fucking Farrell on his way to the World Series, last week wasn’t exactly the time that I was itching to address the struggles and the not-so-glowing reports on the Jays’ top prospect, Aaron Sanchez, who is pitching in Arizona Fall League this month, making up for time lost during the middle of the season with blister troubles, and with the club being extra cautious about arm problems. But I certainly wouldn’t want to be accused (by morons) of trying to sweep away a troublesome report by not addressing it– and I certainly wouldn’t want to not get this stuff written about before Sanchez’s arm falls off, which could be as soon Wednesday, when he’s due to make his next AFL start!

OK, maybe it’s not quite that dire. But the Jays– assuming they’re not working to change things– and Keith Law certainly don’t see eye-to-eye on where the potential ace’s mechanics are at.

At the beginning of last week’s Behind the Dish podcast– which is a must listen, as it also features Dirk Hayhurst– Law explained:

If you check the site tomorrow– that’s Wednesday, I guess depending on when you’re listening to it– I’ll have another column up, listing ten guys who performed in a way, or showed skills that disappointed me somehow. They did not meet my expectations in Fall League, and I’m a little lower on them than I was a year ago– leading off with Aaron Sanchez from Toronto, who I love, and have always loved him. I thought he was better than Noah Syndergaard when they were both in the same organization, but the truth is, Syndergaard looks better at this point, delivery-wise, whereas Sanchez has clearly taken a step backwards. Toronto has made some adjustments to his mechanics. The stuff is good, the command isn’t there, and now I’m starting to get worried about potential arm injury– which is not something I would have said about Sanchez six or nine months ago.

He elaborated during last week’s KLawchat at ESPN.com:

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jaysESPNrank

It’s been a while now, but from time to time around here we used to breathlessly pour over a little exercise that ESPN does each year, getting Keith Law, Jim Bowden and Buster Olney together to rank the MLB teams in terms of their future championship viability in what they call their Future Power Rankings.

The crew ranks each club in terms of the quality of their Major and Minor League talent, their finances, the value and stability of their management and coaching staff, and the flexibility of their roster.

Today they updated the project for the end of the 2013 season (Insider Only), and… uh… well… as you can see above…

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klawmoses

There weren’t a whole lot of Jays-related tidbits in yesterday’s Keith Law chat at ESPN.com, but that’s actually OK, because I totally meant at some point to pull out the numerous ones from Keith’s chat the week before and managed to not. So here a double dose of… er… Law layin’. Or something.

Mike (Dublin)
Any thoughts on Brett Lawrie’s recent resurgence?
Klaw
Fully healthy. This is more like the player I thought he’d be. But again, SSS applies.

Full heath definitely helps, but I do believe he’s slowed some of his excess pre-pitch movement and straightened himself up a bit in the box– which, I suppose, could have to do with actually being healthy enough to not hunch over quite as much. Whatever it is, it’s working. By fWAR Lawrie’s second half so far has been worth 1.5 wins, tying him with Paul Goldschmit, Evan Longoria, Brandon Belt, Bryce Harper, Jonathan Lucroy, Elvis Andrus, and Aaron “how the fuck did the Jays not ever figure him out” Hill for the 16th highest mark among all hitters in baseball.

Kevin (Chicago, IL)
The 2014 draft is __% better than the 2013 in terms of talent.
Klaw
25%.

Aaaaand suddenly missing on Phil Bickford and having a disasterfuck of a season (according to MLBTR’s Reverse Standings they’re currently in line for the eighth overall pick) doesn’t seem quite so bad.

Well, maybe it does, but that’s at least something.

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