Tagged: Adeiny Hechevarria

Who will be the Fan’s Whipping Boy in 2012?

For this week’s post, I had planned on doing a piece on what spots on the roster were actually still undecided besides left field.  I noticed on Twitter that an surprising number of people were posing questions to the likes of Sportsnet Radio’s Mike Wilner (@Wilnerness590) , and well known bloggers Tao of Stieb (@TaoofStieb) and Drunk Jays Fans (@drunkjaysfans) regarding the chances of certain players making the opening day roster.  Questions such as:

What are the chances of Anthony Gose making the team in 2012?

Why don’t the Jays put Snider in centre and Thames in left?

I don’t see why the Jays don’t just move Escobar to second and play Hechevarria at short!

Can Snider or Thames play first base?

The first two questions  to anyone who follows this team closely are quite easy to answer. Colby Rasmus is the Blue Jays’ centre fielder in 2012. Gose will be spending his 2012 in Vegas.  Why people think Gose is a better option in centre having never played an inning in the majors is beyond me. Yes he’s fast and a plus defender but he’s at least a year away from being ready for the Show.  Barring injury, you won’t see Gose playing for the Jays this summer. He’s a prime candidate for a September call-up but the Blue Jays have no need to rush him and remember that Colby Rasmus fellow???

The second question is also an emphatic NO!!! Again, this Colby Rasmus fellow who everybody was thrilled to see the Blue Jays acquire last season is the Blue Jays’ centrefielder.  Yes both Eric and Travis are having fine springs but one of them is going to start the year in Las Vegas.   It’s probably going to be Travis but I discussed that in my last post so I won’t go into any further detail as to why I think this to be the case.

As for the third statement, similar to Gose, the Blue Jays have no reason to rush Adeiny Hechevarria. From all accounts, Hechevarria is already an elite defender and major league ready with his glove. However, he is very much a work and progress at the dish.  He’s improving at the plate and is apparently much stronger this spring then he was at the end of the season last year but he still needs time to develop.  Again, the Blue Jays have a shortstop and second baseman in place for 2012; Yunel Escobar and Kelly Johnson. 

Again for the fourth question, the answer is ‘NO’.  It’s not that Snider and Thames can’t play first base it’s just that the Blue Jays have Adam Lind slated to play first.  If that fails then you’ll see Edwin Encarnacion try his hand there and if E5 turns into E3 then you’ll likely see David Cooper get a shot.  There is no chance the Blue Jays would throw Snider or Thames at first in 2012.  It is conceivable I suppose that the Blue Jays might consider converting one of them to a first baseman in 2013 but I find that rather unlikely.

This brings me to the main subject of this post and that is who will be the Blue Jays fans’ whipping boy in 2012? In 2011, the Vernon Wells trade presented us Juan Rivera on a silver platter.  His struggles at the plate and his total lack of speed did nothing to help Mr. Rivera’s cause and mercifully, the Blue Jays dealt him to the Dodgers in June.   The fan’s ire then shifted fully to the back end of the Blue Jays bullpen where Jason Frasor, Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco drew heat for a multitude of late inning meltdowns. 

Given the fan’s attention in Spring, I think it’s pretty clear that the prime candidates for whipping boy 2012 are, in no particular order: Colby Rasmus, Kelly Johnson and Adam Lind. 

I don’t get why some fans have given up on Rasmus already.   My best guess is that these are Blue Jays fans that watch the Blue Jays and only the Blue Jays and see Rasmus as a player with an attitude problem who only batted .173 with 3 homeruns as a Blue Jay.  They don’t see the five-tool player with a huge upside who had an OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) of .859 and 23 homeruns in 2010 as a 24 year old.  In 2011, the kid got run out of St. Louis by Tony LaRussa who then proceeded to throw him under a bus after the trade to Toronto.  He got to Toronto and then dealt with a wrist injury and only got in 35 games.  Hardly time to give up on a player this young and with this much upside. That being said, if Rasmus gets off to a slow start, you’ll see fans calling for the Jays to play Snider or Gose in centre.

Kelly Johnson was another player who had a really rough 2011 season and has Blue Jays questioning whether he should be the team’s second baseman.  However, given that the previous everyday second baseman for the Blue Jays who the Jays traded to get Johnson was having an equally bad 2011 (and a brutal 2010 for that matter), a change of scenery could bode well for both Johnson and Hill.  Johnson is only signed to a one year deal so fans won’t resent him for his contract but again may be the target of fan’s ire simply because some fans don’t want to wait for Hechevarria. 

Then there is Mr. Adam Lind.  Lind had a great 2009 season. A breakout year for Mr. Lind.  Then came 2010 where as the team’s DH, he struggled mightily with an OBP of a mere .287.  Some writers pointed to the fact that he was a DH at such a young age and had to dwell all game over his failures at the plate as a reason for such a drop-off from 2010. The 2011 season was supposed to be a comeback season for Adam given that he was back to a full-time defensive player.  Despite a promising start to the year, he again put up horrific numbers batting .251 and an on-base percentage of .295.  He did put up 26 homeruns and 87 RBIs but given first base is generally a power position, these numbers don’t hold water.   This kind of production is also not acceptable for a team’s #4 hitter who is supposed to provide protection to one of baseball’s premier power hitters in Jose Bautista.  There is a reason why Bautista led the majors in walks last season.  If you want to really put how bad Adam Lind’s numbers were in 2011, just look at his Wins Above Replacement of 0.7 and compare that with those players that played 50% of their games at 1B last season and had enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title. He ranks 18 out of 20.  To me, this is the guy who is going to be your whipping boy for 2012 Blue Jays fans.  He’s had two consecutive bad seasons, he’s the player who is supposed to be providing protection for the Jays’ best hitter and he’s the guy who was quoted this spring as saying that he’s ‘not much of a workout guy’ and still doesn’t like it but now knows he has to work out and is willing to put in the twenty minutes a day he believes is necessary.   Maybe he’ll return to his 2009 form but all signs are pointing to another rough season.  I just hope that if he does struggle, John Farrell has enough sense to take him out of the lineup or at least move him down in the order. 

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Where are the Runs? :)

PANIC! The Blue Jays did not score any runs in their first two spring games against the Tigers and finally broke through in the seventh inning yesterday against the Phillies!

Actually there is nothing to panic about. It’s spring training and it’s early. If this was the last week of March and the Blue Jays, with many of their regulars in the lineup, were getting routinely shut out there might be cause for concern.  Right now, the boys are just getting their at-bats in, getting used to facing actual pitchers again and figuring out what golf course they’re playing later that day (well everyone except for Travis Snider) or what they’ll be having for that night (especially Travis Snider).

What has caught my interest over the first three games is the battle for the final two rotation spots.  Litsch and Rzepczynski both pitched well in their first spring outings and Jo-Jo Reyes struggled a bit yesterday against the Phils. The Jays defence kicked the ball around a bit yesterday (five errors) so it’s tough to pin the runs the Phillies scored on the pitchers.  Kyle Drabek was scratched from his start yesterday due to a stiff neck so he’ll get the call on Saturday.

Mike Wilner of the FAN 590 in Toronto seems to think that Drabek is going to start the year in Vegas and get called up in May to delay his free agency by a year. The same applies to Zach Stewart. Thus, one can deduce that Wilner thinks the battle for the final two rotation spots is between Reyes, Litsch and Rzepczynski.  I think if one follows this line of logic of letting contract status be a deciding factor a little further, given Reyes is out of options, he would be the favourite for the fourth spot with the fifth spot being a battle between Rzepczynski and Litsch. 

Now when I start seeing the Jays beat writers and other media members start making the same type of assumptions and conclusions about players and say its “just a hunch”, makes me think that they’ve heard from someone in the organization who has given them some insider information but either that the information can be substantiated or the source has told them to keep it quiet.  If it comes to be true, it gives the writer credibility and makes him/her look intelligent and if it doesn’t nobody really remembers because it was just a ‘hunch’ they had.  Now I have zero experience as a member of the media so I could be completely off base with this observation.

 

The other interesting storyline thus far this spring is how the Jays top prospects are making out.  From all I’ve read, Anthony Gose is turning heads with his speed, Adeiny Hechavarria is impressing with his defence and Brett Lawrie is proving capable at third base. Manager John Farrell has stated that Gose and Hechavarria are playing major league calibre defence at this point in their young careers and just now have to mature at the plate.  Lawrie has yet to record a hit but again not many other Jays have recorded many hits at this point!

The prospect that has piqued my interest the most simply because I didn’t know too much about him is Eric Thames. Thames was in New Hampshire last season and tied for second in the Eastern League in homeruns with 27.  He was drafted in the 7th round in the 2008 draft but according to www.jaysprospects.com he slipped down in the draft over concerns of an injury to his quad that he suffered prior to the draft.  Thames has only recorded on hit in five at bats thus far but that one hit was a  triple yesterday against the Phillies.  He looks to be getting a strong look this Spring Training by Jays management just to see how close Thames is to being major league ready. He’ll likely start the year in AAA or maybe AA as there is no room in the Jays outfield at the moment. However, he is likely a candidate for a September call-up or possibly sooner if injuries strike. 

If you’re interested at all in reading about Jays prospects, as I clearly focus on the major league level and don’t have too much knowledge of what is going on in the minors, I would suggest checking out www.jaysprospects.com .  Through Twitter, I have been discovering all kinds of interesting Blue Jays blogs and sites. There are also a lot of Jays players and prospects and beat writers on Twitter who tweet regularly so if you’re a baseball fan or Blue Jays fan, I strongly suggest opening a Twitter account.