Blue Jays Go Bonkers in 13-Inning Win for Canberra

Jack Murphy

Jack Murphy

 

The Canberra Cavalry are heating up Down Under in the Australian Baseball League and have been led by a few Blue Jays minor leaguers including catcher Jack Murphy and second baseman Christian Lopes.

 

 

On Friday’s 11-4, 13-inning win over Brisbane, three Blue Jays’ prospects got into the game and contributed with the bat. Anthony Alford went 2/5 with a run scored, two walks and an RBI, stealing two bases without getting caught. Christian Lopes went 3/5 with his first home run in the ABL, driving in two runs and drawing a walk. Lopes also had a sacrifice fly and, playing shortstop (where he hasn’t played more than three games since his first season in 2012), made an error. Jack Murphy hit his home run in typical, Murphy-esque fashion: in the 13th inning, to cap a seven-run inning and put the Cavalry on top for good.

 

Canberra swept Saturday’s double header with Lopes going 1/4 with another home run in the first game. L.B. Dantzler also hit a home run, his second of the ABL season, also going 1/4, in the 6-1 victory over Brisbane. Murphy was 0/3, catching Tim Atherton who had an outstanding outing.

 

In the second half of the double header, the Cavalry won 8-2 thanks to a 3/5 game from catcher Jack Murphy who hit a double, drove in four runs and scored twice. Murphy pushed his batting average for the ABL season to .352 while Christian Lopes remained hot, going 2/5 and finishing the day with a .337 batting average. Anthony Alford was 0/4 with a walk and a run while L.B. Dantzler played first and third base, going 1/4 with a double, a walk and an RBI.

 

Anthony Alford

Anthony Alford

 

Overall, Alford is hitting .222/.344/.346 with a pair of home runs (including an “in-the-parker”) and five stolen bases. Dantzler’s overall numbers are .256/.314/.400 with a pair of home runs, seven doubles and 16 RBI over 24 games. In his third Australian campaign, Murphy is hitting .352/.408/.538 with five doubles and four home runs over 23 games while Lopes, 22, is hitting .337/.384/.461 with five doubles and a pair of home runs and has walked (eight times) more than he’s struck out (seven times).

 

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Work has started on the 2015 edition of the Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook. You can still purchase The 2014 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook, now available as an ebook at Smashwords.com, now at a reduced price of $2.99 US. You can purchase and preview the book at our Smashwords.com page!

The All-Star Break Supplement to the Minor League Handbook is also available at Smashwords.com for only $0.99 US! Get an update on how your favourite players did last season as well as a report on the 2014 draft!

All photos are copyright Blue Jays from Away (2013-2014) and may not be used without permission.

Blue Jays Sign Ryan Kalish and Andrew Albers

toronto-blue-jays-logo

toronto-blue-jays-logo

 

The Toronto Blue Jays have gone ahead and signed two more players to minor league contracts: left-handed (Canadian) pitcher Andrew Albers, and left fielder Ryan Kalish.

 

 

For Canadian baseball fans, the Albers signing is the more exciting of the two. Albers made headlines after a very strong major league debut with the Minnesota Twins in 2013. Albers seemingly came out of nowhere and made 10 starts with the big league club, posting a 4.05 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP in 60 innings with just seven walks and 25 strikeouts. In his 132 1/3 innings in Triple-A Rochester that same year, Albers was similarly dominant, posting a 2.86 ERA, a 1.18 WHIP and a better strikeout rate (but a worse walk rate).

 

With the Twins signing several free agent pitchers in the offseason, Albers was allowed to go to Korea where he wasn’t all that effective, posting a 5.89 ERA, 1.59 WHIP with 40 walks and 107 strikeouts in 151 1/3 innings with the Hanwha Eagles who finished with a 49-77 record in 2014.

 

Albers was initially drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 10th round of the 2008 draft and is 29 years old. He managed to get his way back into organized baseball by playing in Quebec in the Canadian-American Association in 2010, signing on with Minnesota and working his way up from A-ball to the big leagues in three seasons. Albers features a below average fastball (averaging 86.6 mph, according to PITCHf/x) and generally tries to get ground balls with his sinker. He’s obviously not a signing for the big league team (intially) but will provide depth along with guys like Liam Hendriks.

 

By signing Ryan Kalish, 26, the Blue Jays are bringing in another left-handed hitting outfielder who might compete for a backup job in the major leagues. Kalish is an injury-plagued player who is considered to be extremely athletic after having been a successful pitcher, quarterback, safety and punter in high school. Despite considering playing college football, Kalish signed on with the Red Sox after being drafted in the ninth round of the 2006 draft.

 

In 2007, Kalish hit .368/.471/.540 in the low minors and, while he took a small step back in 2008, he kept improving over the next two years until 2010, putting up decent numbers in major leagues, hitting .252/.305/.405 with 11 doubles and four home runs in 53 games.

 

In April 2011, he crashed into an outfield wall in Triple-A Pawtucket and eventually had cervical fusion surgery, the same procedure that Payton Manning had. After struggling through pain in 2012 and missing all of 2013, Kalish put up solid numbers in Triple-A for the Cubs and a .248/.295/.347 line for the big leauge club (in 57 games).

 

Kalish is the type of player who, going into his Age-27 season, could still reach his potential after years of injury woes and a post-surgery season of high-level competition under his belt. He’s another “low-risk, high-reward” player that the Blue Jays have added to their system and he could challenge Chris Colabello or Caleb Gindl for playing time in Buffalo and in Toronto. Both players have been invited to major league spring training.

 

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Work has started on the 2015 edition of the Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook. You can still purchase The 2014 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook, now available as an ebook at Smashwords.com, now at a reduced price of $2.99 US. You can purchase and preview the book at our Smashwords.com page!

The All-Star Break Supplement to the Minor League Handbook is also available at Smashwords.com for only $0.99 US! Get an update on how your favourite players did last season as well as a report on the 2014 draft!

All photos are copyright Blue Jays from Away (2013-2014) and may not be used without permission.

Blue Jays Sign Daric Barton to Minor League Deal: Dan Johnson 2.0?

Dan Johnson preparing to get a handshake from manager Gary Allenson after hitting a home run.
Dan Johnson preparing to get a handshake from manager Gary Allenson after hitting a home run.

Dan Johnson preparing to get a handshake from manager Gary Allenson after hitting a home run.

 

Finally, the signing that I’ve been waiting for: a left-handed hitting first baseman/DH type. The Blue Jays went out and signed former Oakland Athletics’ Daric Barton.

 

 

Over the last couple of years, the Blue Jays had weapons from both sides of the plate at first base and DH positions with Edwin Encarnacion hitting from the right side and Adam Lind hitting from the left. Obviously, Edwin was getting to play just about every day but having a guy who could crush right-handed pitching was extremely advantageous for the Blue Jays.

 

The Blue Jays have also liked to have platoon-worthy players hanging around in Buffalo just in case they were needed. In 2013, the tandem of Luis Jimenez and Mauro Gomez fulfilled this platoon, giving the Jays Quad-A guys that they could call on in an emergency. In 2014, the Jays had Dan Johnson hitting from the left side and several guys who hit from the right including Brett Wallace, Matt Tuiasosopo and, at the end of the season, Matt Hague. Hague remains with the club and Johnson had a tremendous season, earning a big league paycheque at the end of the year but Johnson has signed on to a minor league deal with the Astros and Wallace remains a free agent.

 

With Johnson, the left-handed hitter, and with Matt Hague and Jake Fox, both right-handed hitters, under contract, I’ve been waiting for the Blue Jays to pick up a left-handed hitting first baseman and they chose to get a guy who is very similar to Dan Johnson in a few ways.

 

Barton is 29 and was drafted originally by the St. Louis Cardinals as a first-round pick (28th overall) in the 2003 draft. He was traded the following year to Oakland as a part of the deal that sent Mark Mulder to St. Louis. Barton eventually made the big leagues with Oakland, playing on a full-time basis in 2008 and 2010, becoming a walk machine (leading the AL with 110 walks in 2010) and has consistently posted OBPs well over 100 points higher than his batting average. As a part-time player in 2011-2014, Barton’s stock fell and he spent most of his time in the minor leagues, putting up middling batting averages but solid OBPs with a little bit of power.

 

While Johnson has consistently shown more power over the course of his career (particularly putting up ISO numbers in the .200 range in Triple-A), Barton appears to be more of a doubles hitter that, when combined with the number of walks he takes, makes him a potentially solid bat.

 

When comparing K% and BB%, Barton has a better walk rate than Johnson and a slightly higher strikeout rate but he’s still better than average in that respect. That said, Barton is going to need help from the BABIP gods to bring his batting average up to useful levels. If he’s in the low-.200s, he’s not going to hit for enough power to contribute at the big-league level.

 

All in all, it’s a nice little signing that I’ve been waiting for. With a left-handed hitting option at first base for the Buffalo Bisons, the club already has a couple of right-handed hitting options in Fox and Hague. It’ll be interesting to see what goes down in the Queen City (Buffalo) at the corner infield spots!

 

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The All-Star Break Supplement to the Minor League Handbook is also available at Smashwords.com for only $0.99 US! Get an update on how your favourite players did last season as well as a report on the 2014 draft!

All photos are copyright Blue Jays from Away (2013-2014) and may not be used without permission.

Blue Jays Sign Three to Minor League Deals

toronto-blue-jays-logo

 

toronto-blue-jays-logo

 

The Toronto Blue Jays were active just after the Winter Meetings ended, signing three players to minor league deals in the hopes of a “buy-low” scenario. All three have major league experience and could help the big league club at some point in 2015.

 

 

Thanks to a tweet from Shi Davidi (and others), we know that the Blue Jays have signed right-handed pitcher Wilton Lopez, outfielder Caleb Gindl and infielder Jake Fox to minor league deals with invitations to spring training.

 

Lopez, a 31-year-old righty from Nicaragua, has appeared in the major league every year since 2009, with three tremendous seasons with Houston between 2010 and 2012. Most recently with Colorado, he didn’t have much of a chance in 2014 after a decent 2013, getting sent down to Triple-A Colorado Springs after four outings, his fourth being a particularly bad one in which he gave up three home runs (and six runs) in just 2/3 of an inning. Overall, however, Lopez has a 3.54 career ERA in 305 1/3 innings in the majors with a 3.30 career xFIP. He has an excellent 54.1% ground ball rate and, despite a fairly low 17.4% strikeout rate, has a very low 4.5% walk rate over his big league career. Lopez is a three-pitch pitcher with a fastball/slider/changeup combo with the fastball coming in just over 90 mph. He could be the ideal “low-risk, high-reward” type reliever that the Blue Jays are looking for in 2015.

 

Gindl, only 26, has a much more limited major league resume with 178 plate appearances over two seasons. In his rookie year of 2013, Gindl showed some promise with the bat, hitting .242/.340/.439 with five home runs in 155 plate appearances but followed that up with a poor showing in just eight games in 2014. Listed at 5-foot-9 and 210 pounds, Gindl has been an offensive machine in his minor league career, hitting .285/.360/.449 in over 3500 minor league at bats. Last season, he had a down year with Milwaukee’s Triple-A affiliate in Nashville, hitting .227/.310/.354 with just 20 doubles and eight home runs in 408 plate appearances. The biggest concern with Gindl is his inability to hit left-handed pitching: he hit .157/.246/.185 in 122 plate appearances against lefties in 2014. Gindl posts a high walk rate and an average strikeout rate and should be another left-handed bat to take a look at in spring training. His scouting reports suggests that he’s not a typical corner outfielder but he could put up “Melky-lite” numbers (particularly by walking more) if he’s needed at the big league level but, like Adam Lind, should only face right-handed pitchers.

 

32-year-old Jake Fox comes with major league experience in the 2009 through 2011 seasons but hasn’t been back to The Show since. Fox has played five positions (plus DH) in the major leagues over his career (catcher, first base, third base, right field, left field) but spent most of his time last year at first base with Double-A Reading (in the Phillies’ organization) and in Laguna of the Mexican League. Fox is being brought in for his bat which has provided a ton of power over his career with over 200 minor league home runs including 38 last year between Double-A (22 in 78 games) and Mexico (16 in 57 games). He hit for a combined .309/.387/.592 in the two leagues (plus five games in the independent Atlantic League). Fox also brings 20 major league home runs to the table in 193 games (but only 534 plate appearances). A right-handed hitter, Fox could be another utility option for the Blue Jays as a versatile (but mediocre) defensive player who can fill in at five positions including catcher.

 

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Who are these players? Find out in The 2014 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook, now available as an ebook at Smashwords.com, now at a reduced price of $2.99 US. You can purchase and preview the book at our Smashwords.com page!

The All-Star Break Supplement to the Minor League Handbook is also available at Smashwords.com for only $0.99 US! Get an update on how your favourite players did last season as well as a report on the 2014 draft!

All photos are copyright Blue Jays from Away (2013-2014) and may not be used without permission.

Could The Jays Find Help in the Rule 5 Draft?

rule-5-draft

rule-5-draft

The Rule 5 draft comes at the tail end of the winter meetings and is scheduled for December 11. This draft, which allows major league teams to pick off the unprotected players on other teams (players that aren’t on the 40-man roster) provided they stay on the 25-man roster all season (there are other considerations too), has a couple of names who might be a good fit for the Blue Jays’ bullpen, provided they’re still available when the Blue Jays select.

 

 

I highly recommend that you go to this article on MLB.com by Jonathan Mayo to get a good grounding in the Rule 5 draft if you haven’t already. There are a couple of interesting players who might be available to help the Blue Jays in 2015, provided that they are available when the Blue Jays select. Currently, the Blue Jays are slated to pick 17th but because five teams ahead of the Blue Jays have full 40-man rosters (right now), if the draft was held today, the Jays would actually get the 12th pick.

 

Delino DeShields, Jr., a former first-round pick of the Houston Astros, has been left off their 40-man roster and he could certainly be an option to fill the club’s needs at second base. DeShields’ stock has fallen considerably after a fairly tough season in Double-A Corpus Christi last year. Converted from his original position of second base to center field, DeShields’ future is probably in the outfield unless he can improve from his 24 errors as a second baseman in 2013 in High-A Lancaster. DeShields offers other things including excellent speed (54 stolen bases, 14 caught stealing in 2014) and a little bit of pop (11 HRs last season) and some solid patience at the plate (a 12.0% wakl rate in 2014). On the downside, there’s a fairly high strikeout rate (22.1% in 2014) and a low average despite a normal BABIP and very good speed. Kiley McDaniel wrote that “he has no feel to hit and seems disinterested defensively.” So those aren’t exactly good things to hear.

 

One player that I think would be a much better fit for the Blue Jays is Braves’ pitching prospect, 25-year-old Cody Martin. The righty was a college player drafted in the seventh round in 2011 by the Braves and has spent parts of two seasons as a starter in Triple-A, with a lot of success. The scouting reports I’ve read suggest that he has a below average fastball with some movement (topping out at 90 mph or so) but uses pinpoint control and changes speeds to get hitters out. Despite the lack of “stuff,” Martin has had a healthy strikeout rate above 21% in Triple-A which suggests that he knows how to pitch. My guess is that his velocity would play up a bit if he were to come out of the bullpen. To further bolster his “cred,” Marc Hulet of Fangraphs was among a number of prospect writers who expected Martin to make his big league debut in 2014.

 

Mayo also names Marlins’ lefty Jarlin Garcia who, at 22 in 2015 and without having pitched above A-ball, would not be much of a fit for the Jays, seeing as they’re probably not going to give up a 25-man roster spot to a guy with only a year of full-season ball under his belt.

 

Obviously, my thought would be for the Jays to take a chance on Martin if he’s available when the Jays select around 12th in the Rule 5 draft. With over 200 innings of Triple-A experience already, Martin could definitely be given a chance to be a Chad Jenkins type of reliever in 2015 (particularly without an overpowering fastball) and the worst-case scenario is that the Jays lose a little bit of money in the transaction and return him to the Braves if they decide that he can’t help the team. Otherwise, he’d be an inexpensive way to add a bullpen arm and some starting depth in one fell swoop.

 

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Who are these players? Find out in The 2014 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook, now available as an ebook at Smashwords.com, now at a reduced price of $2.99 US. You can purchase and preview the book at our Smashwords.com page!

The All-Star Break Supplement to the Minor League Handbook is also available at Smashwords.com for only $0.99 US! Get an update on how your favourite players did last season as well as a report on the 2014 draft!

All photos are copyright Blue Jays from Away (2013-2014) and may not be used without permission.

Blue Jays Sign Ezequiel Carrera to Minor League Deal

buffalobisonslogo

buffalobisonslogo

 

So the Blue Jays made their move to add outfield depth a day after non-tendering two of their outfielders. No, it wasn’t a big-league left fielder that they added but the club gave a minor league deal (with an invitation to big league spring training) to 27-year-old center fielder Ezequiel Carrera.

 

 

While Carrera doesn’t have much of a big league resume (176 games over four years with Cleveland, Philadelphia and Detroit), he does have quite a lot going for him including great defense and great speed. Carrera has 25 big league stolen bases and has been caught just seven times and he stole 50 bags last season combined between Toledo and Detroit.

 

Last season, Carrera had his best year in the minors, hitting .307/.387/.422 with the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens. That .809 OPS (with 43 stolen bases marked career highs at that level and he also managed some decent extra-base pop with 15 doubles, five triples and six home runs (adding four doubles and a triple in 73 plate appearances with Detroit). Carrera’s great season last year helped him to mid- and post-season All-Star awards from the International Leagues as well as a Player of the Week award in July.

 

In many ways, Carrera reminds me of Eugenio Velez, a minor league free agent the Jays signed in 2013. Velez was a speedy, solid hitting minor leaguer with some pop who helped the Bisons tremendously. The Bisons are already excited about the signing of Carrera, tweeting a link to some video of him in action. and just generally filling up their Twitter feed with Carrera-related content.

 

In short, this is obviously a depth signing but one that has the potential to be a good one for the Jays if other options in the outfield fail to produce. The left-handed hitter is projected by Steamer (on Fangraphs) to produce a 90 wRC+ (although they only expect him to get one major league plate appearance) which is actually higher than the 86 wRC+ that they predict for Anthony Gose. Interestingly, Gose was traded to Detroit and by signing Carrera, they get a guy who could very well outproduce him (given enough of a chance) AND they got Devon Travis. Sounds like a win-win to me.

 

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Who are these players? Find out in The 2014 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook, now available as an ebook at Smashwords.com for $7.99 US. You can purchase and preview the book at our Smashwords.com page!

The All-Star Break Supplement to the Minor League Handbook is also available at Smashwords.com for only $2 US! Get an update on how your favourite players have been doing this season as well as a report on the 2014 draft!

All photos are copyright Blue Jays from Away (2013-2014) and may not be used without permission.

December 3 Winter League Update

A.J. Jimenez
A.J. Jimenez

A.J. Jimenez

 

Whew, now that the non-tender deadline has come and gone, let’s look around the world and see what Blue Jays affiliated players are up to!

 

 

Anthony Alford hasn’t been superb down in Australia with 20 strikeouts in 54 at bats, hitting .222/.333/.333. He does have an inside-the-park home run as well as a double and a triple to go with three stolen bases. L.B. Dantzler has been a little on the cold side, with his average dropping to .263 over the last little while. He’s got a .338 OBP and .351 slugging percentage with five doubles. Christian Lopes is doing much better of late with a .345/.383/.436 line with Canberra, adding five doubles and striking out just twice in 55 at bats. Finally, Jack Murphy continues to dominate the ABL, hitting .423/.448/.596 with three doubles and a pair of home runs in 52 at bats for the Cavalry.

 

Casey Lawrence

Casey Lawrence

 

Reliever Gregory Infante has had a couple of poor outings lately, giving up his first runs (two over his last two appearances) since the beginning of November. He now has a 2.70 ERA over 20 innings with a 1.45 WHIP and eight walks and 24 strikeouts. Casey Lawrence made his most recent start on November 18 and allowed three runs over six innings. With US Thanksgiving last week, Lawrence is likely done for the year (many US players play in winter ball until Thanksgiving). He has a 3.40 ERA over 39 2/3 innings with a 1.36 WHIP, 20 strikeouts and seven walks. Arik Sikula went from the Arizona League to the Venezuelan League and didn’t seem affected by US Thanksgiving, pitching on November 27, 29 and 30. He has allowed one run in 3 1/3 innings, and still hasn’t struck out a batter yet. Tyler Ybarra hasn’t pitched since failing to retire a batter on November 19 and my guess would be that he’s done. He pitched just two innings, walking seven and striking out three.

 

Jonathan Diaz

Jonathan Diaz

 

The Dominican Winter League has a huge contingent of Blue Jays’ minor leaguers, beginning with Jonathan Diaz who continues to play. He’s hitting .263/.398/.337 in 95 at bats for Gigantes del Cibao and has two home runs and a double to his credit. Brad Glenn has been playing but hasn’t done well, going hitless in seven of his last eight games (sandwiched around a 2/4 performance with a home run on November 23). He’s hitting .239/.280/.310 overall with 20 strikeouts in 71 at bats. First baseman Matt Hague has been active, hitting .302/.353/.330 with Toros del Este, hitting three doubles in 106 at bats.

 

Scott Copeland

 

On the pitching side in the DWL, Austin Bibens-Dirkx, who re-upped with the Blue Jays recently, got lit up in his last start on November 28, throwing four innings and giving up two home runs for five earned runs. He’s got a 5.40 ERA over 10 innings with nine strikeouts and just two walks. Scott Copeland had better results in his last start, allowing one run over five innings and getting a no decision. Overall, he’s got a very nice 1.89 ERA with a 1.37 WHIP, seven walks and 14 strikeouts. 23-year-old fireballer Jimmy Cordero  has been getting into plenty of action with Leones del Escogido and has struck out six in 6 1/3 innings, walking three and giving up one run. Liam Hendriks is 4-1 with Aguilas Cibaenas after throwing six shutout innings on November 28. He’s got 32 strikeouts in 33 1/3 innings with just six walks. Bobby Korecky is also in the Dominican after a stint in Venezuela and has been lights out, not allowing a run in nine Dominican innings, earning four saves for Aguilas with seven strikeouts and just one walk.

 

Jorge Flores

Jorge Flores

 

In Mexico, the Blue Jays have one player still going with “Mighty Mouse” Jorge Flores putting up a .243/.304/.306 slash line in 144 at bats, hitting four doubles, a triple and a home run.

 

John Anderson

John Anderson

 

In the Puerto Rican Winter League, A.J. Jimenez has been active and on fire, hitting .375 in his last 10 games to give him a .361/.409/.508 slash line over 61 at bats with seven doubles and a triple. Dickie Joe Thon has been sluggish in limited opportunities at home in Puerto Rico, hitting just .167/.259/.167 in 24 at bats. Lefty John Anderson has ventured to Puerto Rico and followed up a rough outing in his first appearance with a much better one and has allowed two earned runs over 1 1/3 innings and hasn’t walked or struck out a batter yet.

 

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Who are these players? Find out in The 2014 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook, now available as an ebook at Smashwords.com for $7.99 US. You can purchase and preview the book at our Smashwords.com page!

The All-Star Break Supplement to the Minor League Handbook is also available at Smashwords.com for only $2 US! Get an update on how your favourite players have been doing this season as well as a report on the 2014 draft!

All photos are copyright Blue Jays from Away (2013-2014) and may not be used without permission.

Ryan Tepera Added to 40-man Roster (And What it Means)

Ryan Tepera
Ryan Tepera

Ryan Tepera

 

While the spotlight was on Russell Martin and his unveiling as a Toronto Blue Jay yesterday, the Blue Jays made a quiet move to fill their 40-man roster.

 

 

Last year, the Blue Jays added former first-round draft pick Deck McGuire and outfielder Kenny Wilson to the 40-man roster in order to protect them from the Rule 5 draft, held on the last day of the Winter Meetings in December. This year, the Blue Jays did things a little differently, calling up some of the players who would have had to be added during the season which left very little roster movement for the roster movement deadline yesterday.

 

In general, players with four years of minor league experience are eligible for the Rule 5 draft every winter (unless they were 18 or younger when they signed their first pro contract, in which case, they get five years) and this year, players like Aaron Sanchez and Dalton Pompey would have been eligible. Since the Blue Jays added them to the 40-man roster during the season, they are already protected and the Blue Jays aren’t really speculating about whether they want to use a roster spot for them. Daniel Norris, also put on the roster, was still one year away from eligibility while Marcus Stroman and Kendall Graveman were both still a couple of years away from eligibility.

 

Players have to be on the 40-man roster in order to be protected and the Blue Jays made one small, unsurprising move to clear one more spot for Ryan Tepera, the only player added to the roster at the November 20 deadline. Very quietly, the Jays had designated Juan Francisco for assignment and he was claimed on waivers by the Boston Red Sox. This little move tells us a lot about how the Blue Jays would have treated Juan Francisco when it came time to offer him a new contract. Eligible for arbitration and estimated to make about $2.2 million, Francisco was tagged by MLB Trade Rumors’ Tim Dierkes as a non-tender candidate, meaning that the Jays weren’t likely offer him a contract, making him a free agent.

 

Since the Jays weren’t planning on bringing him back, Francisco was DFA’ed now in order to make room for Tepera. Ryan Tepera is a hard throwing righty who had a very solid year in Buffalo. The 27-year-old was eligible to be selected last season but wasn’t protected (or selected) and responded with a 3.66 ERA, 1.41 WHIP and 24 walks and 67 strikeouts in 64 innings for the Buffalo Bisons. Josh Norris at Baseball America says that he has a “plus fastball that sinks and cuts” but his “high-80s slider . . . is below-average.” If you’re a loyal reader, you’ll know that I wrote about Tepera last year because he was tapped by Marc Hulet as being a guy that could be selected in the Rule 5 draft. This year, after a successful season at the highest minor league level, the Blue Jays aren’t going to take any chances.

 

These moves now have two more cascading effects. The first is that the Blue Jays, with a full 40-man roster, will be unable to select anyone in the Rule 5 draft, so you won’t see a move like the Jays made last year, selecting Brian Moran from the Mariners and then flipping him to the Angels for cap money in the international free agent bonus pool.

 

Andy Burns

Andy Burns

 

The second effect is a little more interesting when we look at who the Blue Jays didn’t protect in the draft. The biggest name that comes to mind is Andy Burns, a versatile infielder who has played all of the infield positions (although he’s been moved off of shortstop somewhat permanently) and a couple of outfield positions over the last couple of years. Defensively, he is capable of excellence although when I’ve seen Burns over the past two seasons, he’s had a tendency to run hot and cold. He sometimes looked Brett-Lawrie-esque at the hot corner and sometimes looked disinterested. I did see him play a game at second base and he made all of the plays and looked fine there.

 

Offensively, Burns is really intriguing. While he hasn’t had a truly outstanding full season at any one level, Burns made Double-A in 2013 when he came out of the gate hammering the ball in High-A Dunedin, posting a .907 OPS in 64 games. In another 64 games in Double-A New Hampshire, Burns’ OPS dropped to .728 but he still managed to put together some solid numbers with a .253/.309/.419 that included 19 doubles, two triples and seven home runs after a slow start adjusting to the higher level. In 2014, Burns started slowly, hitting just .213/.292/.330 in April and May but rebounded well with the bat, hitting .280/.328/.492 with 11 of his 15 home runs and 24 of his 32 doubles in the final three months of the season. With the combination of solid power, speed (18 stolen bases) and decent contact ability, Burns could offer a team a good player off the bench if he’s selected in the Rule 5 draft. I don’t think he’ll be back.

 

John Stilson

John Stilson

 

The other players who were left off the 40-man roster include pitcher John Stilson and second baseman Jon Berti. Stilson is coming back from shoulder surgery and would be a risky pick for a team. Still, he could be selected, placed on the 60-day DL and activated when healthy. Remember that players selected in the Rule 5 draft have to be on the major league roster all season and must be active for 90 days of that. However, there are cases (Brian Moran is one) where a player who is injured can spend a full season on the 60-day DL and then must be on the 25-man roster for the full year the following season. I think Stilson is just about major league ready, having seen him (and interviewed him) in Spring Training in 2014 and he could be a somewhat risky pickup with the upside of being a fairly high leverage arm in the bullpen.

 

Jon Berti

Jon Berti

 

Jon Berti is also a curious omission. Has he become expendable now that Devon Travis is in the organization? Berti, a two-time winner of the Jays’ R. Howard Webster award for being the MVP of his minor league team, has hit Double-A so far and has been classified as a hard-nosed player who has great speed and defense but may not make it with the bat. Berti will be 25 next year and could very well be in Buffalo. Travis, incidentally, has one more year before he’s eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 draft and the Blue Jays will get another chance to see what they’ve got in him before they have to decide whether or not to put him on the 40-man roster. There is also a likelihood that, like Sanchez and Pompey, Travis will join the Blue Jays at some point in 2015, making his protection in the 2015 Rule 5 draft automatic.

 

Whatever happens, it’s going to be an interesting Rule 5 draft for the Blue Jays, primarily to see if any of the non-protected players find new homes on other teams.

 

If you like us here,“like” us on Facebook!

Who are these players? Find out in The 2014 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook, now available as an ebook at Smashwords.com for $7.99 US. You can purchase and preview the book at our Smashwords.com page!

The All-Star Break Supplement to the Minor League Handbook is also available at Smashwords.com for only $2 US! Get an update on how your favourite players have been doing this season as well as a report on the 2014 draft!

All photos are copyright Blue Jays from Away (2013-2014) and may not be used without permission.

Justin Jackson Signs with Atlanta Braves

Justin Jackson
Justin Jackson

Justin Jackson

 

It’s the end of an era for the Toronto Blue Jays. Former first rounder Justin Jackson has left the organization to sign a minor league free agent contract with the Atlanta Braves.

 

 

Taken in the supplemental round of the 2007 draft by the Blue Jays as a shortstop, Jackson never really got his mojo working with the bat and his arm strength eventually had enough power that he and the Blue Jays decided to give him a try on the mound, where he had spent some time in high school.

 

As a pitcher, Jackson spent two seasons, working his way up from Lansing and finishing the 2014 season with New Hampshire. His pitching career, as I wrote previously, has been a work in progress but Jackson’s 94-95 mph fastball is tantalizing and it looks like the Braves made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.

 

Jackson, who is very adept at the social media game, announced his signing with typical style.

#NewBeginnings

A video posted by Justin Jackson (@jaxchillinone) on


Jackson has been one of my favourite players to talk to and he was one of my first interviews for the Blue Jays from Away Podcast and I interviewed him the day after he made his professional pitching debut.

 

We wish Justin the best of luck with the Braves in 2015!

Blue Jays Trade Anthony Gose for Devon Travis

Anthony Gose

 

Anthony Gose

Anthony Gose

 

I was sitting in a bar in Pittsburgh, checking my Twitter feed tonight, enjoying the mild buzz from a nice, 9% alcohol beer and lo and behold, the Blue Jays actually did something to warrant me staying up and putting fingers to keyboard to produce a blog!

 

 

What did the Blue Jays do, you ask (if you haven’t heard already but, if I may be blunt, the fact that you’re reading this blog means that you’ve probably already heard). The Blue Jays traded long time project and former highly touted prospect, center fielder Anthony Gose to the Tigers for current Tigers top prospect (according to Baseball America), second baseman Devon Travis.

 

First, let’s talk about Anthony Gose. I’ve seen Anthony play several times in person and the tools have always been there. With a swing that can produce line drives, speed to burn, tremendous range and instincts in the outfield and a cannon of an arm, Gose should have been able to put things together. But he didn’t, at least at the major league level. In about a season’s worth of plate appearances (over 202 games across three seasons), Gose hit .234/.301/.332 for the Blue Jays and stole 34 bases in 45 attempts with 170 strikeouts. Obviously, not the type of offense that you want from your every day center fielder. There was talk about the Blue Jays going into the 2015 season with Gose and Kevin Pillar platooning in center field although Gose’s platoon splits weren’t tremendous either, hitting .241/.316/.350 in 483 plate appearances against right-handed pitching (he’s a left-handed hitter).

 

Having seen Gose play a fair bit in Buffalo as well as in Toronto, my biggest concern is that he never walked enough and really seemed to struggle against breaking balls. While he did seem to have a better idea of what he was doing at the plate in 2014 (posting a solid walk rate of 9.1%, the best in his major league career), he still struck out 27% of the time, up from his 2013 Blue Jays stint in which he struck out 24.2% of the time.

 

Devon Travis, on the other hand, gets very solid scouting reports from MLB.com, which ranks him as the Tigers’ fourth-best prospect (although he’ll probably come in around 8th in the Blue Jays’ system, which is far better stocked in terms of minor league talent) while Baseball America ($) ranks him first. MLB likes his hit and run tools the best, giving them both 60 grades (on the 20-80 scale with 50 being major league average). Travis posted very solid numbers in 100 games in Double-A Erie, hitting .298 with a very good .358 OBP and a .460 slugging percentage, hitting 20 doubles, seven triples and 10 home runs. What impresses me is the 60 strikeouts in 441 plate appearances to give him a very low 13.6% rate. To compare, against similar competition at the Double-A level, Anthony Gose struck almost twice as much.

 

I really like Travis’ “hit” tool from what I’ve read about him with Ben Badler at Baseball America giving him a 60 grade for that tool as well. The criticism that I’ve seen a few times is that nothing really stands out about him but that doesn’t mean that he’s not going to become a major league player. There are many major leaguers that don’t have a particular tool that stands out but they’re able to use solid, major league average tools that play up because of a high intelligence and good baseball sense. Ben Badler’s optimism is pretty encouraging as he says that “even if Travis doesn’t hit that upside, he still has a chance to turn into a steady, average everyday player.” That’s better than anything the Blue Jays have at second base in their system right now.

 

The other thing that this trade means is that Dalton Pompey, unless the Jays make another move, moves to the front of the line to be the Opening Day 2015 center fielder. While he’s not as good of a pure center fielder than Anthony Gose is, that’s hardly a criticism because almost nobody is. Pompey certainly has the defensive resume, having won a minor league Gold Glove in 2013 as the best defensive center fielder in all of minor league baseball. He’s also got much more baseball savvy at the plate. As a switch hitter, he can play against both righties and lefties and, is one of the most mature base stealers in the Blue Jays’ organization with plus speed. He’s far more likely to have a better stolen base percentage than Gose as a major leaguer when both of their careers are all over with. Oh, and he’s Canadian.

 

Travis will likely man second base in Buffalo to start the year, moving Ryan Goins back over to shortstop and putting Jonathan Diaz into a utility role. The Blue Jays haven’t hesitated to promote their players in the last couple of years and if Travis comes out hitting well, he could make the big league squad by June.

 

If you like us here,“like” us on Facebook!

Who are these players? Find out in The 2014 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook, now available as an ebook at Smashwords.com for $7.99 US. You can purchase and preview the book at our Smashwords.com page!

The All-Star Break Supplement to the Minor League Handbook is also available at Smashwords.com for only $2 US! Get an update on how your favourite players have been doing this season as well as a report on the 2014 draft!

All photos are copyright Blue Jays from Away (2013-2014) and may not be used without permission.