Archive for the ‘Position Battles’ Category

morel

Is it Brent Morel or Brett Morel? I can never keep this straight. Yet I probably should pay a little better attention to the Jays’ nondescript December waiver pickup from the White Sox, because — not to put a damper on the odd excitement I’ve seen around here for the possibility of re-acquiring Emilio Bonifacio, who was D’d FA by the Royals the other day (and might actually work as an extra outfielder, though we’d obviously be leery of it, for reasons awesomely addressed by Jack Moore at Getting Blanked earlier today) — the more I look at what the Jays have here, the more I think it may have been a sneaky-good one.

It’s not an game-changer by any means — it’s more in the Erik Kratz category of potentially sneaky-good winter moves — but there is actually more to like here than I think we’ve given the player and the club credit for during the last month of not-giving-a-shit-that-we-have-Brent-(or is it Brett?)-Morel.

No, really.

Morel has a good defensive reputation, albeit at third base. I’m not going to try to claim that he’s another Ryan Goins, but when MLBTR passed along word of his addition, they noted that when he was a prospect — 85th in baseball, according to Baseball America, heading into 2011 — he’d been praised as an “intelligent defender with a quick first step.” The Jays, according to a tweet from Bruce Levine of Chicago’s 670theScore.com last week, have asked Morel to move from third to second base for the upcoming season, and that’s where things get even more intriguing…

If he can successfully make the transition to the middle of the infield, the Jays will have themselves a versatile right-handed bat who has been very strong against left-handed pitching in his career. Or, at least during his career in the minor leagues.

Think about that.

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getzgoins

According to the busy twitter fingers of the reporters currently at the Jays event in Buffalo, Alex Anthopoulos has revealed that the club has signed second baseman Chris Getz to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training. Ryan Goins now has another small measure of competition for his spot, as Anthopoulos also says that Getz — like Goins a lefty at the plate, so not a platoon option — could earn playing time at second base once the position battle Getz Goins (sorry).

Thing is, it’s Chris Getz.

If you want to be glib about it, Getz is just another left-handed bat can’t hit and won’t play defence nearly as well as Goins. And… well… the more I look at it, the more it seems like you probably don’t need to say a whole lot more than that.

He’s depth.

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When the news broke over the weekend that the Jays had demoted Travis Snider and decided to give Eric Thames the starting left field job, I just knew I had recently read someone suggest precisely that scenario, but couldn’t for the life of me figure out who it was.

Turns out, it was John Sickels of Minor League Ball, who I’ve discovered (while in preparation for tomorrow’s ultra-rare Morning Snack post) included the following nugget in his Prospect Notes post back on Saturday afternoon, a day before the news broke.

Buzz from Toronto Blue Jays camp is that Eric Thames has the edge over Travis Snider in the competition for the regular left field job. Both are hitting well (Thames 13-for-40, .325/.378/.500, Snider 13-for-43, .302/.375/.698) but Thames is reportedly impressing more with his defense and athleticism, which looks like the deciding factor since both are hitting. Thames is also making better contact, with eight whiffs against Snider’s 14.

Interesting.

Whoever he got his information from either got lucky… or he’s got the goods. I couldn’t possibly say which– though, knowing the Jays, I’d be willing to wager a guess. Still, I must admit, I might pay a little closer attention the next time Sickels says he hears some Jays-related buzzing.

Something truly remarkable happened yesterday…

Something I didn’t think would ever happen again…

Something so many of us had been quietly hoping we’d never have to deal with again…

Parkes actually wrote a goddamn post.

The news of the Jays demotion of Travis Snider to minor league camp, on the other hand? Not terribly surprising.

Nor is it, in my view, another instance of the Jays dicking around a once-extraordinary prospect, as many have been real effing quick to want to shout.

Much like Snider, Eric Thames is probably too good to be toiling in Las Vegas all season. And as much as the idea of giving Snider 600 MLB at-bats, come what may, sounds like the ideal plan for his development, it’s a quaint notion that would have been very difficult for the club to pull off if Snider slumped, Thames raked in Vegas, and the club– thanks especially to the lure of the AL’s extra Wild Card spot– needed production from its left fielder.

Almost certainly there would have, at some point, been pressures– both internal and external– to help the club by replacing a slumping Snider with Thames. Astutely, by being firm about Thames’ advantages in a position battle that Alex Anthopoulos acknowledges will likely go on all year, the club has ensured that they’ll avoid a potentially much more damaging scenario down the road.

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I’m not going to pretend that there hasn’t been a lot of Travis Snider love in these pages lately– too much, most likely– or that I didn’t feel slight pangs of guilt when it was tweeted at me this weekend that Eric Thames had said on the radio that he doesn’t “care what bloggers think” about where the battle between him and Snider stands so far.

Honestly, as much as I’m still in the tank for the tantalizing promise Snider once showed, I’d genuinely love to see Eric Thames take the ball and run with it and succeed– and I don’t think he’s incapable. It’s just… well… it’s just stuff like this:

ESPN is ranking the top 500 players in baseball, and today came out with the bottom 100 of their list. Riffing on that was Dan Szymborski of Baseball Think Factory and the ZiPS projection system, who singled out seven players who could potentially be the the next Jose Bautista (Insider only). In other words, “some of the second-tier prospects and youngish journeymen who sit in the 401-500 range who still have a chance of really surprising, much like Bautista did in 2010.”

Marc Rzepczynski makes the list– much to what I’m sure is the delight of our friend Drew from over at Getting Blanked– but the first name mentioned ranked at number 475 on the Top 500 (below Eric Thames, it should be noted), Travis Snider.

“After hitting .301/.338/.466 during a cup of coffee stint at age 20 in 2008, 2009 was supposed to be Snider’s big breakout,” Szymborski writes. “Then 2010. Then 2011. The calendar’s turned yet again, and the Jays are still waiting for Snider to force his way into the heart of a solid Jays lineup. While there’s a natural inclination to give up on Snider, he just turned 24. ZiPS, for one, has soured considerably on Snider, but on the upside, still thinks he can develop into a Kevin Mitchell-type hitter in the best-case scenario. Mitchell had a better first experience in the majors, but had setbacks of his own, such as repeating Triple-A after a rough season with the Tidewater Tides in 1984. And remember, Mitchell was National League MVP in 1989.”

OK, so maybe it’s not quite the Mickey Mantle comparison some Globe and Mail commenter wants to put on Brett Lawrie’s head, but Mitchell was no slouch, putting up 31.1 wins in a career that spanned parts of 13 seasons. He was worth four wins four times, including a 4.2 fWAR in the strike-shortened 1994 season, and 7.1 fWAR in his ’89 MVP campaign. He also was in the three win neighbourhood an additional three times.

So… not a career to be scoffed at by a long stretch.

Also, this:

 

For Snider? Fuckin’ eh, I’ll take it. Since, y’know, right now we’re staring down the barrel of pretty much shit all.

After yesterday’s heavy dose of realism, Jays fans demanded that Keith Law, the obliterator of all their little hopes and dreams, come forth and defend his absurd views on Dustin McGowan!

Or… probably it was just his contract with TSN Radio. Or maybe they just asked.

Either way, KLaw hit the airwaves– the free, public airwaves that I can quote anything from with a clear conscience, I should add– this afternoon and elaborated on what he saw yesterday when he took in the epic Grapefruit League tilt between the Jays and the Astros in Kissimmee.

And, actually, he skipped a lot of the stuff about McGowan. Or… probably I just tuned in a little too late to catch it.

What I did hear was pretty seriously awesome, especially where two the players I’d like to see the Jays not dick around are concerned: Kyle Drabek and Travis Snider.

He also talked Anthony Gose, Travis d’Arnaud, about the back of the rotation in general, and followed up his piece from yesterday with some activity in the comments.

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Click to embiggen

Here’s something that I may just do the once, or I may keep going to occasionally as the tedious days of the Grapefruit League continue on toward Opening Day: a completely unscientific chart showing the progress of the battle for the Jays left field spot!

I, of course, have no fucking clue where the Jays heads are at on this, with the exception of Alex Anthopoulos and John Farrell having said over the off-season that Thames must have an edge, because it’s his job to lose, that defense is going to be a factor, and that spring stats are going to count for less than the quality of at bats, and presumably the opposing pitcher– hence the unscientific, completely perception-based nature of this exercise.

Thing is, as the club’s lone non-rotation position battle, I figure that for the next month we’ll be paying undue attention to how Travis Snider and Eric Thames fare against the league’s cannon fodder and developing prospects, with a small mixture of actual MLB-calibre pitchers thrown in for good measure. So, why not shoehorn myself it into treating it entirely like a horse race, y’know, like the way they’ve unbelievably somehow managed to even further dumb down American election year political discourse!

The Jays lost their first game of the spring today, 4-2 to the Detroit Tigers, and while Snider didn’t play, following his 2-for-4, 3 RBI performance on Sunday, Thames did, going 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts.

Should that alone have dropped him as much as we see on the graph, considering his two-hit performance on Saturday, which included a home run? Probably not. But Snider gets extra points thanks to Larry Millson of the Globe and Mail, who wrote over the weekend that Snider “took up reading about Zen” following his difficult 2011 season– a process which started with The Way of Baseball: Finding Stillness at 95 MPH by none other than ex-Jay Shawn Green.

Hmmmm. I can’t image why a book by a former hotshot Jays prospect who got jerked around by Cito Gaston but then went on to have an extremely productive MLB career might speak to the 24-year-old.