I know this will be hard for some of you to believe, but sometimes we saberdouches miss on a player.  Whether that’s Bobby Kielty, or Billy McMillon, or Daric Barton, some guys just don’t develop the way we hope they will.  AAAA players, guys who simply can’t make the jump from AAA to the Majors, do exist.  Meanwhile, sometimes guys like Denard Span or Melky Cabrera defy expectations and establish themselves as good or even great Major Leaguers, when there’s very little eveidence they will.  We’re wrong sometimes.

But sometimes we’re really not.  And so I’m incredibly excited to see what AJ Ellis has been doing this season with regular playing time.  Coming into 2012, Ellis had managed a .406 OBP in the minors over nine seasons, but with just a .380 slugging percentage, despite spending the last four seasons at Las Vegas and Albuquerque in the Pacific Coast League.  In the Majors, he had totaled 244 plate appearances, and had hit .262/.360/.330.  He was also going to be 31 years old and had never had more than 128 plate appearances in any previous season.

The Dodgers had tried everything not to use him.  They traded for Rod Barajas in 2010 when Russell Martin got hurt.  They brought in Brad Ausmus to back them up.  In 2011, with Barajas entrenched as the starter, they used Dioner Navarro as the #2 catcher for most of the season.  Despite his patient approach and solid defense, Ellis was about to have his shot at the Major Leagues snatched away without even getting a chance to prove he could do it.

But with the Dodgers strapped financially, they finally turned to Ellis as a last resort this year, and Ellis has rewarded them for taking that chance by hitting .317/.442/.517 with 5 homers, 26 walks, and a 166 OPS+ in 149 plate appearances.  He’s also caught 46% of runners who have tried to steal against him.  Now, this almost certainly isn’t Ellis’ true talent level. Obviously, we’re dealing with a relatively small sample, and there’s probably a fair amount of luck helping him along.  But, at 31, Ellis has proven that he’s good enough to play in the Majors.  All he needed was someone desperate enough to take a chance.

And really, that’s what any AAAA player needs.  Neither statheads nor scouts will be able to tell you with certainty whether a player like AJ Ellis will be able to make the jump; only time and plate appearances (or innings pitched) can tell you that.  And given that teams are allowed to control their minor leaguers so completely for so long, it seems only fair that these players at least get a proper shot.  The fraternity of Major League Baseball players is relatively small, and guys who have earned a shot to join it, deserve that chance.  The chance to establish themselves, and validate their careers.  To justify the years and years of training, of traveling, and of being away from their families.  Baseball teams have an obligation to give them their shot.  And really, if a team isn’t going anywhere, it’s in their best interest to do so.  Because if you can find an AJ Ellis, you have a tremendous advantage.

Ellis may have graduated from the ranks, but there are still guys who are looking to get a proper chance at the Majors:

Anthony Slama has a 1.97 ERA in 6 minor league seasons, including a 2.28 ERA at AAA over the last four.  He has 7 Major League innings to his credit.  This year, he’s pitched 20.1 innings and struck out 33 batters, and has allowed one run (0.44 ERA).  The Twins (who have 38 players on their 40 man roster), refuse to add him to the 40 man and call him up, despite a weak pitching staff, saying that his fastball is too straight for the Majors.  He’s 28 years old.

It’s hard to tell what Todd Redmond is supposed to do to make it to the Braves.  He’s pitched 8 minor league seasons now, is 27 years old, and has never thrown a pitch in the Bigs.  In the last two years, he’s had a 2.80 ERA at AAA Gwinnett and has struck out 21.3% of the batters he’s faced.  The Braves, who normally have strong pitching depth, have seen Jair Jurrjens fall to injuries and ineffectivness, Arodys Vizcaino to Tommy John surgery, and Julio Teheran to wildness.  Using Redmond in the rotation while Mike Minor remembers how to pitch, or transferring Redmond to the bullpen already will help keep the Braves competitive in what looks like a fun NL East this year.

In fairness, Travis Snider has had more than 800 plate appearances in the Majors.  But he debuted at just 20 and was probably rushed, even though he was destroying International League pitching at the time.  And his struggles after his initial success left Jays fans scratching their heads.  In 2012, he’s raking at Las Vegas (not that hard to do), hitting .333/.411/.604 with 19 strikeouts in 112 plate appearances.  He has hit .333/.407/.559 over 153 AAA games, and while Las Vegas makes it hard to evaluate hitters, it’s pretty clear he has nothing left to learn there.  He’s still only 24, and he needs a half-season worth of additional Major League plate appearances before we write him off.  And blocking his way with Eric Thames (.250/.296/.379) when you’re likely to finish in last makes no sense.  He certainly deserves more of a shot than Yan Gomes.

Comments (17)

  1. ” when you’re likely to finish in last ”

    …. you bastard.

    • The truth hurts. If it makes you feel better, the Jays would probably win the AL Central.

      • I know it’s very possibly true (though I still think the OriLOLs are gonna have a 2011 Cleveland type fall from grace and that the Red Sawks are actually just as bad as they have been so far), but you didn’t have to say it out loud!!

        And no that didn’t make me feel any better. It just made me hate geography.

      • Common man, you hurt me so bad

      • Ouch… Frigging ouch. It breaks my brain on a daily basis that it’s likely that the last place team in the AL East will not only finish over .500, not only have a positive run differential, but will likely finish with the 7th or 8th best record in the goddamn American League. Just fucking shameful. For every AL Central and AL West Team (because even for the playoff teams, beating up on Seattle or Minny 18 times a season should only count for half a win.)

  2. How awesome of a name is Slama!?!?!?
    Too bad he’s a pitcher and not a big fat first baseman as he would have been if there was indeed a baseball god.

  3. But Snider should definitely be ready to succeed as an everyday if he comes up, so the fact that he’s still having problems with his wrist seems a good reason to leave him alone right now, no?

    • All I’m going to say is Brett Lawrie… wrist injury last year… delayed callup. Then RAKED. Not saying that freak injuries are predictive of anything, but the movie Rookie of the Year tells me they might be.

  4. And Eric Thames’ defense in left is almost analogous to the Artist Formerly Known as E5′s defense at 3rd base.

    • Awesome narrative in the works? methinks so.

    • Watching Eric Thames slam into the wall and come up looking for the ball like a lost toddler is akin to gouging ones own eyes out with a rusty screwdriver. E5′s defense at 3rd was unfortunate, Thames’ is insulting

  5. It seems unlikely that MLB is going to change their schedule so we are going to have to move on from that. The Jays under AA have taken the approach that in order to compete are going to do so with homegrown high end prospects and develope them. This approach seems to me make the most sense but the downside is that it takes time. The vast majority of high end youngsters are stil 3 to 5 years away with another wave to be added this June. As the franchise is constructed now the future looks bright while the major league team likely will continue to spin its wheels.
    I expect that during this winter some of the prospects will be moved on in trades to help the MLB roster for next year. That should help advance the 3 to 5 year timetable. The pieces are slowly being put into place but it is going to take time.
    The Jays are not even three years into a major franchise remaking. The right management team is in charge.
    I am prepared to wait and see how it unfolds. The future for the Jays is the brightest of any TO team. They have the highest mountain to climb because of their division but also have the most tools.

    • Hey, I agree with you… but…
      I think the REAL reality is that there are two fucking camps in this fanbase: the “WIN-NOW-MOTHER- FUCKERS-AT-THE-COST-OF-THE-FUTURE-SIGN- JOSH-WILLINGHAM-AND-CARLOS-PENA-AND-DEREK-LEE-FOR-AS-LONG-AS-THEY-NEED-FUCK-THE-FARM” camp for whom every loss in season is a signal that the front office is awful compared to their free agent wet dreaming on MLB 12 (with trade logic turned off) gm-ing abilities and that the manager should be fired every time the team gives up a run (I call these Leafs fans), and the “we’re willing to wait… and wait.. and hope… and wait.. for 162 games to play out and a team’s true talent level to show itself before making any rash judgments about players whose managers and team staff probably have a far better idea of what a player is capable of than we do” camp, who are incredibly frustrating to deal with for the other side. And then there are those of us in the middle, for whom hope in human kind doesn’t die every time Adam Lind strikes out or the second string closer blows a game, but who also get fucking furious when Marty Foster ejects Henderson Alvarez from a game for blowing a kiss too close to a girl in the front row. It’d be nice if the hyper-ventilators like grouchy, jesuchristo, NorthYorkJays and yes, Robert From Scarborough, would buy some good, Brett Lawrie endorsed BC hydro and calm down a little (for medicinal purposes only, they’re raising everyone’s blood pressure) and the Zen Army (lookin at you Parkes) would do a few lines of blow, or some speed, or sit on a hot-plate or something and add a little Lawrie to their lives, because Spock is not anyone’s favourite beat writer.. and even he freaked out two or three times in his hundred year lifespan about things other than Madison Bumgarner. And then those of us in between wouldn’t be left feeling like Dennis Leary in the Marriage Ref.
      Seriously. it’s a looooong fucking season, both learn to live more than day to day (lookin at you mouthbreathers) and stop only taking the longview (wasn’t that great a Greenday song Parkes.)
      Cheers from logictown. Also known as Ottawa. Oh shit, that doesn’t make any sense at all.

  6. To the “win now motherfuckers” , who is available who will ensure th Jays win? Players can be aquired who will improve the team in the short term, but the Jays are unlikely to win as constructed.
    Would the Jays be in first place if Fielder was signed?
    Would the Jays be in first place with Geo?
    How would we view the team if Bell was the closer?
    Those were stupid options which were not pursued.
    You can yell and scream that Rogers are cheap fucks but even if the Jays had pulled a Marlins they still are not guarenteed the post season in the AL East. The long term financial flexability would be lost. Check in three years to see if the Marlins are pleased with results of their free agent frenzy.
    I wish the Jays were more competitive against the top teams this year but they just don’t have enough horses. Buying some broken down nags or soon to be broken down nags won’t chang that.
    Each year under AA holes are being filled. The wave is coming.

    • Spelling/Grammar Mistakes from Salming21
      “th” –> the
      A comma after the word “but”. Worst.
      “Geo” –> Gio. Are you the baseball god from Wilner’s Jays Talk?
      “guarenteed” –> “guaranteed”
      “flexability” –> “flexibility [personal favorite]
      “soon to be broken down” –> soon-to-be-broken-down [I think...]
      “chang” –> change
      “Each year under AA holes are being filled.” –> Each year under AA, holes are being filled. [That's how you use a comma].

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