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J.P. Arencibia vs. Travis d’Arnaud: Who is the Jays Catcher of the Future?

Saturday September 24, 2011

 

 

April Whitzman (Blue Jays Writer – MLB reports):  Two weeks ago, I posted that the toughest question Blue Jays’ fans are dealing with right now is figuring out whose comeback, whether that of Dustin McGowan or Adam Loewen, is more impressive. Today I pose a question that some would say is equally hard to answer: who is the Toronto Blue Jays’ catcher of the future – J.P. Arencibia or Travis d’Arnaud?

What they have in common:

Interesting, while many people do not realize this, both catchers share their origin in common – the 2007 MLB first-year player draft. In fact, Arencibia was drafted 21st overall by the Blue Jays out of the University of Tennessee. As the 37th pick overall, the Philadelphia Phillies went with Travis d’Arnaud, out of Lakewood High School. At the time it was believed that the Jays were interested in d’Arnaud’s potential and would pick him with the 38th pick and move Arencibia to first base. Yet the Phillies chose the young star from Florida one slot before, forcing the Jays to choose left-handed pitcher, Brett Cecil. That said, a persistent GM, Alex Anthopoulos, would get his player; as the Blue Jays acquired Travis d’Arnaud two years later in the well-known Roy Halladay trade.

How they differ:

Defense

It is difficult to compare these players, as Arencibia has already made the jump to the majors while d’Arnaud just finished his season in AA New Hampshire. Arencibia has more professional experience having been drafted out of college, while d’Arnaud came out of high school. Here is a graph to compare how each player performed during their time at AA New Hampshire:

JP received the promotion from Dunedin to New Hampshire half-way through the season; his stats have been doubled to receive a more accurate comparison.

Both players are pretty evenly matched. Nevertheless, d’Arnaud has the slight advantage on errors committed, fielding percentage, and passed balls. Meanwhile, Arencibia has a higher caught-stealing percentage.

Despite one player being in the majors and the other in the minors in 2011, an interesting comparison can be depicted if we compare both catchers’ stats for this season:

With each player in their fourth year of professional baseball, these stats show how close their defensive game truly is. Having committed the same amount of errors, the same fielding percentage and only one passed ball being the difference between them, the biggest distinction is that d’Arnaud has the slight advantage throwing out base runners.

Don Wakamatsu, a former catcher himself, and now the Toronto Blue Jays bench coach has admitted that he has seen a drastic improvement in Arencibia’s defensive abilities. Wakamatsu credits the improvement to a significant amount of practice and hard work. He stated: “Arencibia has done a phenomenal job trying to understand how to get the most out of our pitching staff.”

Defensively, Arencibia has a good arm, but he struggles at times with blocking pitches in the dirt. In his minor league career, Arencibia threw out close to 30% of base stealers, though charged with 60 passed balls in 357 lifetime games.

In regards to his defense, Arencibia stated, “Defense is obviously first, and I know that, and whatever comes with the bat is secondary.” He continued:I feel like my biggest thing is getting that pitcher through that game and I feel like I’m starting to get a real good understanding of my staff and giving us opportunities to win.” Since making these comments, Arencibia has improved his defense considerably in the second half of the season. For example, in the eighth inning of Friday night’s game against Tampa Bay, JP was able to throw out Rays outfielder B.J. Upton.

Comparatively, Travis d’Arnaud’s defensive skills are stronger. He has a great game-calling abilities and he has a strong arm. While his career caught-stealing rates have suffered due to inexperience, he has also improved his game by working on his footwork behind the plate. At 22 years old, d’Arnaud is already one of the better defensive catchers in the minors and he has plenty of time to develop into a premier defender in the big leagues. This was proven when he was named the Catcher’s Captain Award recipient for 2011 by Baseball America. The award is given to the catcher who displays strong defensive qualities, including leadership and dedication.

Offense

There is no denying that both players are also solid offensively. In 409 games in the minors, JP hit .275 with 121 doubles, 83 HR and 290 RBI. That said, he has also proven what he can do at the plate at the major league level as well. There is not a Blue Jays fan who does not remember J.P. Arencibia’s major league debut last year against the Tampa Bay Rays, as he launched the first pitch he saw over the left field wall for a home run. He later singled and doubled and capped the day with a home run to right field. That game showcased Arencebia’s talents and his ability to hit the ball for power.

Offense is where Arencibia and d’Arnaud differ most. Essentially, while JP hits for power but not average, d’Arnaud is a more complete player at the plate, as he hits for average and power. This year with the Fisher Cats, d’Arnaud was named the Eastern League MVP after hitting .313 with 20 homers and 77 RBIs. Here is how their 2011 numbers compare:

Prior to the 2011 campaign, many fans and analysts alike were not sold on d’Arnaud as anything more than a defense-first catcher. However, as his numbers this season have indicated, Travis experienced a bit of a learning curve early on in his career, as he made the jump from high school to the minor leagues. With his bat coming around this season, the offensive edge at this stage goes to d’Arnaud. It is evident that both players (as can be seen from the table above) need to work on the amount of times they strikeout, but other than that, both look solid at the plate and behind it.

Overall

Although both J.P. Arencibia and Travis d’Arnaud came from the same draft class in 2007, it appears that d’Arnaud has the greater upside. In essence, Arencibia has received the call to the majors quicker because he was able to develop in college before jumping to the professional ranks. As displayed through various charts, d’Arnaud appears to be more efficient both with his glove and bat. His numbers indicate that he could make the jump to the MLB as early as next year.  In a recent interview with Fisher Cats beat reporter, Dave Gershman, d’Arnaud showed that he has the confidence to make it to the big leagues, as he stated: “Hopefully one day I can get up to Toronto, and play like I’m playing now. And who knows what will happen? Maybe I’ll be a good player.”

At the same time one cannot discredit J.P. Arencibia, as despite his quick progression to the MLB, he is still learning at the age of 25.   Arencibia recently stated as much when he admitted, “On both sides of the plate I’ve been maturing and making adjustments in different things,” Arencibia says. “But it’s still a work in progress. You’re always trying to get better.” With catchers requiring the most seasoning from all the positions, Arencebia can still be considered to be at this stage ahead of the curve.

Whoever is chosen as the lead catcher, one thing is certain: the Blue Jays are blessed with two young catchers – both at the plate – and behind it!  If the team’s worst problem is having two number one catchers on its roster within the next two years, then that is a great dilemma to have.  It is very possible that one of the above (likely Arencibia) will be moved when both catchers have proven themselves at the major league level.  Until then, with injuries and slumps being a reality of the game, the Jays will enjoy their abundance of talent behind the dish and lets the cards play themselves out.

As always, I look forward to hearing from you. Comment below, email MLBreports@gmail.com and follow me on Twitter at @Alleycat17.

 

 

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There He ‘Gose’ Again: The Future of Base-Stealing Blue Jays’ Prospect, Anthony Gose

Tuesday September 20, 2011

 

April Whitzman (Blue Jays Writer – MLB reports):  A native of Paramount, California, outfielder Anthony Gose was the Philadelphia Phillies second round selection in the 2008 Draft. Although a top prospect with the Phillies organization, Gose found himself in Toronto by the end of the 2010 season after a three team deal also including the Houston Astros.

PRE-BLUE JAYS

Glancing at his numbers from 2009, Anthony Gose led all minor league players with 76 stolen bases while hitting .259 with 20 doubles, 13 triples, seven home runs and 27 RBI. His walk-to-strikeout ratio was a bit cumbersome, however, as he walked 45 times, but struck out 132 times. After the season, MLB prospect writer John Sickels rated Gose’s performance, stating the following: “[I] Love [his] speed, youth, and the athleticism. Don’t like the high strikeout rate for a guy without much power. Most advanced of the uber-tools players collected in this system in recent drafts.”

In 2010, at 19 years old, Gose appeared in 103 games with Clearwater and 27 games with the Dunedin Blue Jays (A+). The 6-1, 190 lb., left-handed hitter collected 20 doubles, 13 triples, and seven home runs with 27 RBI while adding 45 stolen bases. While 45 steals sounds impressive, it should be noted that he was thrown out 32 times that season. That’s only a 58% success rate.

BLUE JAYS

Joining the AA New Hampshire Fisher Cats in 2011, his first full season with the Blue Jays organization, Gose worked to improve his greatest asset – speed. This year he successfully stole 70 bases, only getting caught 15 times, going 23-for-24 in his last 24 attempts and increasing his stealing percentage to 82%. He then started to learn about when to steal, having the majority of his failed attempts coming at third base.

What’s more, along with base stealing, Gose saw improvement in the batters box, as he increased his power totals for the third straight year hitting 16 home runs, 20 doubles and seven triples. Unfortunately, his average has remained around the .250 mark (.253), comparable to the rest of his career in the minor leagues.

Another improvement for Anthony Gose this season was his patience at the plate. While only taking 41 walks in 2010, Gose took 62 walks in 2011 in a similar number of at-bats. He also saw though an increase in his strikeouts this season, as he had 154. Nevertheless when Gose doesn’t strike out and he does put the ball in play, he is batting .339, nearly 80 points higher than his regular average.

Not only has he improved at the plate, but Gose has also seen a rise in his game in the field.  His fielding was phenomenal in 2011, committing only three errors, giving him a .992 fielding percentage. Discussing his play in the field, Sal Fasano, the manager of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, stated: “Gose has enough arm to play right or left in the majors. He caught a ball on the warning track in the right-centre, near the 375 sign, and threw out a guy at third — in the air.” Looking at the numbers, Gose had 15 outfield assists in 2010 and 14 assists this season. That can all be attributed due to his phenomenal range, as thanks to his speed, Gose is able to cover ground smoothly and regularly, making continual exciting plays in the field.

IN THE FUTURE

In late July of this year, 24-year-old center fielder, Colby Rasmus was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays from the St. Louis Cardinals in a blockbuster deal that also involved the Chicago White Sox. The trade left many wondering if Gose still had a future with the Jays. Fasano’s response: [Gose is] arrogant enough to think they will move players to make room for him.”  However, many baseball analysts were not as optimistic and still wondered where he would fit.

There is no doubt that the Blue Jays have a deep farm system. Most would agree that the team has key players that they would be willing to move if the price was right.  If nothing else, the Jays’ GM has shown a willingness to be aggressive in the trade market. With the addition of a strong and powerful first baseman, a dominating starting pitcher, and/or a ‘lights-out’ closer, the Blue Jays are likely to contend by 2013, the year that Gose will likely make the majors.

With Colby Rasmus at centre, Jose Bautista in right, and any one of Travis Snider, Eric Thames, Adam Loewen, and Rajai Davis to play left and/or be the fourth outfielder, it is anticipated that a trade will be coming during this off-season.

With the Blue Jays’ need for a first baseman, the Jays could consider a trade with the Cincinnati Reds who are in dire need of an outfielder. Could Yonder Alonso be the future first baseman for the team in blue and the speedy Gose the future Reds’ centerfielder? With the Astros also needing outfield depth, would it not be ironic if the Jays traded Gose for Brett Wallace? (While this is a very unlikely scenario, it would fill the needs for both teams). The Pittsburgh Pirates are another team in need of a solid outfielder. Thanks in part to a deep farm system, a trade with the Pirates could work. The Jays are also in need of a top starting pitcher and a closer, so any future trade could package off other prospects as well, including, but not limited to, Travis Snider and/or Eric Thames.

The future for Anthony Gose will surely become clear this off–season by recognizing what trades Alex Anthopoulos, deemed as the ‘Silent Assassin’, will make. Along with teammates Yan Gomez and Adeiny Hechavarria, Gose is also heading to the Arizona Fall League to work even more on his skills. Until a trade is consumated, it is evident with Gose, that the Blue Jays have a solid prospect that has a rare combination of top-notch speed, excellent fielding ability and top tools at the plate.

 As always, I look forward to hearing from you. Comment below, email MLBreports@gmail.com and follow me on Twitter at @Alleycat17.

 

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter (@MLBreports) and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Diamondbacks and Blue Jays Swap Second Basemen: Hill and McDonald for Johnson

Tuesday August 23, 2011

 

 

Rob Bland (Intern- MLB reports):  The Arizona Diamondbacks are in the middle of a pennant race in the National League West, and yet made a change with their second baseman, Kelly Johnson.  Statistics show that Johnson had been underperforming this year, and GM Kevin Towers said he wanted better defense and infield depth.  With that in mind, Towers got a hold of Toronto Blue Jays’ GM Alex Anthopoulos to inquire on super utility infielder John McDonald.  McDonald can play 2B, SS, and 3B at an above average level, although he doesn’t do much with the bat. With regular shortstop Stephen Drew lost for the season due to injury, the D’Backs have been forced to start Willie Bloomquist the majority of the games in his absence.  That led to talks involving Toronto’s longest tenured player, second baseman Aaron Hill.  The end result was Arizona acquiring Aaron Hill and John McDonald, with Kelly Johnson going to Toronto.

Aaron Hill had a terrific start to his career, which so far has peaked in 2009 when he hit .286 with 36 home runs and 108 RBI.  He was an All-Star and a Silver Slugger winner that year.  He plays good defense and is a well-liked guy in the clubhouse.  His contract situation is an iffy one, in that he has 2 option years left worth $8M each.  By the end of 2009, it would have been a lock that those options would have been picked up, however, 2010 and 2011 have not been so kind to Hill.  Last year he hit .205 with a walk rate of only 7.1%.  He at least was able to club 26 home runs, which are numbers he has not been able to replicate this year.  Hill in 2011 is walking in 5.4% of his plate appearances, and has only 6 home runs to go along with his paltry .225 average.

McDonald is arguably the most beloved player in Toronto, after Jose Bautista.  He routinely gets standing ovations, and this writer can proudly say one of his favourite moments in MLB history was watching McDonald hit a home run in his first at bat after missing a few games.  The significance was that his father had just passed away, and McDonald promised to hit a home run for him.  So on Father’s Day of 2010, McDonald crushed a home run over the left field wall.  The teary-eyed McDonald crossed the plate and was embraced by every member of the Blue Jays.  McDonald is a phenomenal defender, often used as a pinch runner in key situations, but doesn’t hit much. In his 13 seasons, he has only 21 home runs, with 12 of them coming in his last 3 seasons.   His value comes as a player that will give everything for his team, playing every position imaginable and making highlight reel plays.

Johnson is only a season removed from a .284/.370/.496 slash line, and although scouts often say his defense is sub par, the advanced metrics tell a different story.  His UZR was 7.1 last year, and 3.9 this year, where 0 is average.  Johnson’s production, like Hill, has fallen off the table.  He is still hitting home runs; 18 this year compared to 26 last year.  He takes walks, just under 11% for his career.  But his main problem has been the strikeouts.  This year has been worse than usual, as he has struck out in over 27% of his plate appearances.  Johnson’s line drive rate is just a tick below his career numbers, so his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) being 50 points lower than his career average is probably a good indicator of why his numbers are so low.

All three players are free agents at season’s end.   McDonald and Hill both said during their press conference today that they are very open to returning to Toronto in 2012.  Until then, the Diamondbacks will look to add to their 1.5 game lead over the San Francisco Giants with this move.  Should they be propelled to the playoffs, it is likely that an infield of Hill, McDonald, Lyle Overbay, and Ryan Roberts (all former Blue Jays) could face off against another former Jay in Roy Halladay and the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League Division Series.

This deal seems strange from a Diamondbacks perspective, as Hill is a downgrade from Johnson, even with the poor season Johnson has been having in 2011.  The amount of upside the Dbacks get from having McDonald over Bloomquist at shortstop is completely negated by this downgrade.  However, the Dbacks get two great clubhouse characters, who will surely help the club defensively and in teaching the younger players.  For the Blue Jays, this trade makes complete sense.  Johnson is currently set to be a Type B free agent at the end of the year, and with a hot streak, could become a Type A.  As a Type B, he would net the team a supplemental draft pick if he signs a major league deal with another team.  But if Johnson reaches Type A status this offseason, he will also net a first round pick on top of the supplemental pick.  The Jays can use this time to better evaluate Johnson, and by showing him what the organization has to offer, Johnson may sign with the team at the end of the year.

Aaron Hill and Kelly Johnson were two players that have been coveted by each team for the last couple of years, but no deal could have been struck.  However, with both players struggling so badly this year, both players were in need of a change of scenery.  A fresh start could do wonders for Hill as he could get back into the groove he was in before the 2010 season, while Johnson could return to his 2010 form.

So at the very worst, the Jays get an extra draft pick as part of this trade, and in many people’s opinions, they will also get McDonald back in 2012 to be their utility infielder.  For the Dbacks, Hill’s production could seriously limit their offense and push them out of a playoff spot.  Both teams are facing risks, but I believe Toronto’s level of risk was much lower, as they are not in a pennant race.  The upside potential of this trade for the Jays makes them the winner in my books.

 

 

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Intern, Rob Bland.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Rob on Twitter.***

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Interview with Toronto Blue Jays Prospect and 2010 Draftee: Art Charles

Thursday August 11, 2011

 

 

MLB reports:  Today on the Reports we are proud to feature Blue Jays prospect first baseman, Arthur Charles.  The 20-year old Charles was drafted by the Jays in the 20th round of the 2010 draft.  After being selected by the Orioles in 2008 and the Royals in 2009, Charles signed with Toronto and started his baseball journey last year.

At 6’6″ and weighing a solid 221 lbs, Charles projects to flash a great deal of power at the first base position for the Jays.  Currently playing for Bluefield in the Appalachian League, Charles has hit 10 home runs in 49 games, with an impressive .813 OPS.  Art is one of the most charistmatic players that we have interviewed on the Reports.  We can see him quickly becoming a fan favorite one day in Toronto.  A name to keep an eye on in the Blue Jays organization, the Reports is proud to present our interview with Arthur (Art) Charles:

 

MLB reports:  Welcome to the Reports Art.  Looking to the past, who was your favorite baseball player growing up, that you most idolized and patterned your game after?

Art CharlesMy favorite baseball players growing up would have to be Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Bonds. These two sluggers were my idols and in whom I modified my game after.  Griffey instantly stood out to me because I liked his swing and tried to modify mine to look like his.  His swing was just so pure, smooth, and simple.  Barry Bonds was the same way I loved his swing and how he hit so many home runs.  I used to tell my friends that I would break his home run record and that one day I would be “that guy” in the big leagues hitting bombs and lasers everywhere in front of the world. 


 

MLB reports:  Great choices in Bonds and Griffey.  We have seen Griffey in particular as a popular choice amond players.  On the flipside, which current MLB star do you most admire and why?

Art CharlesThe current MLB player that I admire the most right now is Adrian Gonzalez.  I enjoy watching Adrian Gonzalez a lot because he is not only a very good hitter for the Red Sox, but he is a great defensive player as well.  His game is something that I now watch very closely for that reason.  I would like to be that kind of player, an all around player.  I want to be known as a threat and someone who will not only hit for power and average, but someone who has a golden glove at first base making plays and helping his team win on both sides, offensively and defensively.

 

MLB reports:  Reflecting on your career to-date, what are your proudest accomplishments on the baseball field?

Art Charles:  My proudest accomplishment of my professional career would have to be hitting a walk-off home run to against the Bristol White Sox this year.  This moment isn’t just big for me because I hit the game winning home run ,but because there was a lesson to learn from it.  In the top of that inning we were tied and one of the Sox’s players hit a ground ball to me that I made an error on, to give them the go ahead run.  I was VERY disappointed, but I knew there was a chance that I would be up in the bottom half of the inning.  Although I was heated, I told myself I was going to get up when my team needed me and I was not going to let them down again.  I was going to win the game for us.  Staying focused and visualizing my at bat, mixed with a little anger, had gotten me mentally prepared for the moment.  It was a full count with two runners on and two outs, the kind of moment that you imagine when you are young.  I then saw a good pitch and didn’t miss it.  Instantly I knew I had just hit the game winning home run and met with my teammates at home plate to celebrate.  I even had the shaving cream pie treatment and that made it one of, if not the most, memorable moments of my life.

 

MLB reports:  A great experience Art.  Thank you for sharing it with us!  Reflecting back, what were your goals going into the 2011 season? 

Art Charles:  My goals going into this season were to have quality at bats, hit balls hard where ever they might go, make plays on defense, do my part to help my team win, improve my game for the next level (offensively and defensively), get a promotion to one of our other teams, be a threat every time I step to the plate, work hard at everything I do, and be consistent on a daily basis.  I knew that if I did all of those things, that the rest would take care of itself.  Meaning home runs, RBI’s, doubles, and making plays in the field would come.  I just wanted to make sure I took care of my business and controlled what I could control and let the rest fall into place.

 

MLB reports:  When you first found out you were drafted, what were your reactions?  Did those reactions change over time?  What was the process like being drafted originally by the Orioles in 2008 and Royals in 2009 and not signing with either team?  What made you decide to finally sign with the Jays in 2010?

Art Charles:  When being drafted I was beyond excited.  Being drafted three times by three different teams is not only an honor and an accomplishment, but also a very exciting and blessed process.  Every time I was drafted I was very happy.  The process of these drafts was very similar.  When I was first drafted in 2008 to the Orioles I was still young, at 17, and needed to mature more and really prepare myself; not ready to make that move.  In 2009 I was taken again to the Royals, but still the timing and things didn’t work out.  Going into the 2010 season I knew this was the year that I was ready to become a professional ball player and in the 2010 draft the Jays picked me up.  I felt this was a good fit for me and I was very comfortable with the scouts and staff I had met in the pre-draft workouts so I knew this was home.

 

MLB reports:  What do you consider your greatest baseball skill(s)?

Art Charles:  I consider my greatest baseball skill to be hitting the baseball with power to all parts of the field.  I feel that hitting baseballs for power to all fields is what separates me from lots of other players, and its something that I will continue to do and get better at doing.

 

MLB reports:  What facets of your game do you most wish to improve upon?

Art Charles:  The parts of my game that I wish to improve on are every part of my game.  I feel I need to get better offensively and defensively if I am going to be the all around player that I wish to become.  Nothing in life comes easy and I learned that at a young age.  So I will continually work hard to better myself and separate myself from others.  To be the best I have to be, in fact better than the best.  So my speed, agility, offense, and defense all have to improve.

 

MLB reports:  How do strikeouts and walks figure into your game?  Do you see any of these items changing over time and to what degree?

Art Charles:  Strikeouts and walks are going to come.  They are both part of the game.  So far this season I have struck out more than I would have liked to, but that’s part of my learning process as a player.  With those strike outs I have learned about how I might be pitched in counts, to be patient and get good pitches to drive, to see pitches up, and much more.  It’s all part of the process that everyone goes through to get to the big leagues.  Walks are also going to occur and that will be because I’m not chasing pitches, I’m being patient, and seeing the ball up.  It’s easier said than done, but like I said it’s part of the process.

 

MLB reports:  Long term what position do you see yourself playing?  How do you see defense as part of your overall game?

Art Charles:  Long term I see myself in the big leagues as a power hitting first baseman.  I feel defense is just as important as hitting. I work on the both of them a lot because I know that if I want to become the player I envision myself becoming, I need to be good around the bag, pick up my teammates, and make plays.  I feel that I am still improving defensively and will continue to get better.  Defense is definitely part of my game I want polish.

 

MLB reports:  If you had to look into a crystal ball, when do you see your expected time of arrival in the big leagues and what do you think you need to do most to get there?

Art Charles:  If I could look into a crystal ball and see my expected time in the big leagues, I don’t know yet what I would see.  I would like to be there within three years, but I am young and have a lot to work on and lots of improving to do.  So I do not know at this moment what my expected time would be.  There isn’t really one thing in particular to say I would need most to get there because to get to the highest level, you need it all.

 

MLB reports:  Has pro ball been everything you expected it to be thus far?  What are some of the highs and lows you have experienced thus far?

Art Charles:  Pro ball has been everything I expected it to be and more.  I can’t say there are any lows because I love what I do and I haven’t had any really long bus rides yet.   But there are plenty of highs.  One being which seeing myself improve as a player.  There are many experiences playing that I have now, such as walk off wins, playoff pushes, fans, signing balls and playing for great skippers.  Did I say the fans?  I would have to say that one of my favorite things was having a little boy write me a letter thanking me for a handshake and telling me I was his favorite player.  The fans are what make this game that much more fun and signing balls, bats, cards, and shirts was a great experience for me.

 

MLB reports:  What do you do for fun when you are not playing baseball?  Best friend(s) on the team that you most hang out with and what do you guys like to do to chill?

Art Charles:  On a day off or after the game I like to lay down and relax to recharge my batteries a bit, listen to music, vibe out, stay up on my tweet game (@SirArthurC), talk to my family, and play Call of Duty (a favorite among players).  Sometimes the guys will come to my room and we play video games or go to the mall.  I have tons of movies so we watch movies, or play cards.  The guys that you will probably catch me with the most are Aaron Sanchez, Christopher Hawkins, Cody Bartlett, Myles Jaye, Les Williams, or Noah Syndergaard.

 

MLB reports:  Have you visited Toronto the city yet?  How have you found the city thus far?

Art Charles:  I have been to Toronto for a pre-draft workout in the Rogers Centre last year and it was a lovely place.  I really enjoyed my brief stay, very nice city and even better people.  The Rogers Centre was great and an unbelievable stadium.

 

MLB reports:  If you could send one message to the Toronto Blue Jays fans, what would it be?

Art Charles:  My message to the fans would be thank you for the love and support.  It is very much appreciated and not forgotten.  You guys are the best!

 

MLB reports:  A big thank you to Art Charles for joining us today on the Reports.  We wish you the best of luck on your baseball journey towards joining the Jays in Toronto one day.  We definitely encourage all our readers to feel free to contact Art with your comments and questions on his Twitter handle.  Art is very active on Twitter and is a must follow!

 

 

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Revisiting: Brett Wallace, Matt Holliday, Michael Taylor, Anthony Gose: 4 Players, 4 Teams, 3 Trades

Tuesday May 31, 2011

 

MLB reports:  Brett Wallace has experienced a baseball odyssey like few others  ever have.  Drafted twice, traded three times and playing in 4 different baseball organizations before his 25th birthday.  The man with the golden bat, Wallace has been coveted by many MLB teams yet somehow managed to move in three separate transactions over his short career.  Usually in these scenarios, we would consider the player to be more of a role type player and not likely to be a superstar in the making.  But considering the players and transactions involved, it is clear that Wallace has been in demand all along.  Now finally entrenched in Houston and playing every day in the big leagues, Wallace is finally fulfilling his early promise and making a name for himself as a future All-Star and possibly batting champion in the National League.

Wallace first hit our radars in 2005 when the Toronto Blue Jays drafted him in the 42nd round.  Unable to sign him, Wallace went on to start playing college ball for Arizona State University.  From there, Wallace blossomed into a 1st round pick, 13th overall for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2008.  Playing in the Cardinals minor league system at third base, Wallace was touted as the next Cards superstar hitter in the making.  With Pujols entrenched at 1st base and up-and-coming slugger Colby Rasmus also in the picture, the Cardinals appeared to be set offensively for years to come.

The plan was changed on July 24, 2009, where the Cardinals making a playoff push, traded Wallace to the Oakland Athletics with Shane Peterson and Clayton Mortensen for slugging outfielder Matt Holliday.  The plan worked as the Cardinals were able to make the playoffs and proceeded to sign Holliday to a long-term deal as protection in the lineup for their main superstar, Albert Pujols.  Wallace, played out the season in the A’s organization and the debate started as to whether his long-term future was at third or first base.

Part of the mystery Wallace was solved as Toronto finally landed its prized target on December 15, 2009.  As part of the Roy Halladay swap, the Jays acquired outfielder Michael Taylor from Philadelphia.  One quick transaction later, Alex Anthopoulos and Billy Beane followed through on a Taylor for Wallace trade.  Wallace was moved permanently to first base with an eye towards joining the Blue Jays as their new first baseman by 2011.  Or so we all thought.  As Alex Anthopoulos started to show the baseball world, he was not afraid to make multiple trades to get the players he wanted.

The Houston Astros in mid-2010 finally started their fire sale.  Franchise player Lance Berkman was traded to the New York Yankees and ace pitcher Roy Oswalt was moved to Philadelphia.  As part of the Oswalt trade, the Astros received young speedster outfielder Anthony Gose.  The Gose acquisition actually led to two further moves.  The Jays apparently were keen on Gose for sometime and were unsuccessful in originally prying him away from the Phillies in the Halladay deal.  The Astros with this knowledge, were able to trade away Berkman knowing that his replacement would come from Toronto if Gose would be a part of the equation.  Trade #3 was then consummated and Wallace found a home in Houston.

Sitting 1/3 of the way into the 2011 season, it is time to look at all four players involved in the three Wallace transactions and get a glimpse as to how each is performing.  In the process, it is interesting to note which teams ended up benefitting from being a part of each Wallace trade.  Let’s look deeper into the numbers of Brett Wallace and the Astros, Michael Taylor and the Athletics, Anthony Gose and the Jays, and Matt Holliday and the Cardinals.

Brett Wallace – Astros

So far, so good for the young Astros slugger.  Having made the team out of spring training, Wallace currently has a .308 AVG, .379 OBP, .442 SLG, 19/39 BB/K, 3 home runs, 22 runs and 16 RBIs.  For a young team in need of offense, the Astros could not ask more from Wallace.  For a kid that always known to be able to hit, the numbers back up the hype.  Having watched him play this year live, I can attest that he plays a fairly solid first base defensively as well.  With the Astros now having their future cleanup hitter getting his feet wet in the majors, they look to have benefitted as a team by acquiring Wallace.

Matt Holliday – Cardinals

Despite paying a heavy price to acquire Holliday in the first place, one cannot argue with the results.  A contending team that has made the playoffs with him on its roster, the Cardinals have been a better team with Matt Holliday.  Since joining the Cardinals, Holliday has since 2009 had an OPS each year of 1.023, .922 and .981.  Holliday hit 13 home runs in 63 games in 2009 and 28 home runs last year.  As Pujols protection, the Cardinals were able to sign Holliday to a long-term contract and bring stability to its lineup and clubhouse.  If the Cardinals had not traded for Holliday, he would have not as likely signed with the team as a free agent as his time playing in St. Louis played a large role in his decision to sign.  The other components of the trade, Peterson and Mortensen turned into expandable spare parts, role players at best.  While the Cardinals could have used Wallace’s bat, there was no room for him at first base and his glove did not project to allow him to stay at third.  The trade turned into a good win for the Cardinals, as strong of a return as the team could have ever expected.

Anthony Gose- Blue Jays

Once we get past Wallace and Holliday, the return on the last 2 Wallace trades still remain relatively unknown.  We start with Anthony Gose of the Jays.  Seen as a strong defensive player and future stolen base champion, the Jays acquired a player known more for tools over the refined and polished bat of Wallace.  So far in 2011, the 20-year old Gose at the advanced AA level has held his own, with a .272 AVG, .375 OBP, .391 SLG, 4 home runs, 22 RBIs, 33 runs, 27/41 BB/K ratio.  Having stolen 76 bases in 2009 in the minors, speed is clearly a big part of Gose’s game.  On the season, Gose already been successful 22/27 times on stolen base attempts.  With Adam Lind entrenched as the new first baseman for the Jays, the team appeared to have indicated by trading Wallace that there was no room for Wallace and that the potential of Gose had a higher value to the team.  With the Jays offense being up and down all year, I think the bat of Wallace rotating through first and DH would have been very useful for the team.  Time will tell on this swap, but at the moment all the Jays have is potential and hype in Anthony Gose while the Astros have defined production from Wallace.  Until proven otherwise, the Astros have the advantage over the Jays in the last Wallace swap.

Michael Taylor- Athletics

The last player to be reviewed is Michael Taylor of the A’s.  A highly considered outfielder once upon a time in the Phillies system, some analysts rated Taylor higher than current Phillies prospect Domonic Brown.  Since joining the A’s organization, Taylor has been sidelined by injuries and has not been able to fully get himself on track.  In 2010, Taylor hit .272 in AAA with 6 home runs and 16 stolen bases in 127 games played.  This year, Taylor has only played 15 games with 1 home run, but has hit .333 with a .795 OPS.  The potential is still there for Taylor but at 25 and in his second full season at AAA for Oakland, Taylor will have to produce to justify the A’s swap of Wallace for him.  Considering that the Athletics have one of the worst offenses in baseball and could desperately use Wallace’s bat in their lineup, it is clear that the A’s came up with the shortest end of the stick, so to speak, among all the teams involved in the Wallace swaps.  Considering the price that the A’s paid to get Holliday originally, including Carlos Gonzalez and Houston Street, losing Wallace and having Taylor stuck in AAA makes all of their trades look even worse.  I still hold out h0pe for Taylor, but another lost year could result in a required change of scenery for him.

It will be interesting to catch up with Wallace, Gose, Holliday and Taylor in another year and then five years from now and see the stage of each player’s career at that time.  Wallace and Holliday should still be proven commodities.  It will be Gose and Taylor as the wild cards that will either blossom or fail as prospects.  The future is bright and still unknown for both of these players.  Until then, we will continue to enjoy watching Brett Wallace as he continues to develop as a player in Houston.

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Jose Bautista Toronto Blue Jays: MLB Home Run Leader, The Inside Report

Tuesday May 17, 2011

MLB reports:  Today’s article is as much about admission of guilt as it is about profiling Toronto Blue Jay’s home run king and the greatest slugger in the game going, Jose Bautista.  Yes, in order to fully analyze Bautista, it is time for this writer to come clean.  When you talk and review as much baseball as I do, the one thing that you never like to do is admit is that you are wrong.  There are times where circumstances happen beyond one’s control and predicted results can change and take different forms.  That’s fine.  In the case of Jose Bautista, I am finally prepared today to admit that I was wrong.  Not once.  Not twice.  But three or more times.  For all the “experts” that say they saw the Jose Bautista of today emerging, my hat is off to them.  If they are being truthful, which in most cases I would have a hard time believing.  For in my estimation, Jose Bautista was the one player that literally appeared out of nowhere.  From the abyss of the unknown to bona fide superstar overnight.  Let’s trail the story of Jose Bautista and how the slugger has managed to shape a doubter into a baseball believer.  It took time, but I am finally prepared to state that Jose Bautista here is to stay.

I recall clearly being in Pittsburgh during the 2007 season.  I had visited the city the year before to attend the home run derby and all-star game.  Loving the park, the city and Fatheads (which if you haven’t been is one of the best American restaurants/pubs ever), I decided another trip to watch weekend baseball was in order.  Being a fan of baseball merchandise and memorabilia, I made sure to go through the souvenir shops at the park before each game.  I left with a Ryan Doumit jersey t-shirt (which I still own and wear proudly) but did not pick up any memorabilia on that trip.  One piece of merchandise that I saw that weekend does stick out in my brain though.  In the game used bat barrel, I recall going through the lumber that there were a couple of Jose Bautista un-cracked game used bats.  To make matters worse, the bats were a whopping $30 each.  I distinctly recall laughing at the sight of the bats and indicating something along the lines of that “…the store would need to pay me to take these away.”  Clearly I did not see a value to the Bautista bats that day or attach any future value to them.  A sign of things to come.

Fast forward a year later and the Blue Jays and Pittsburgh Pirates consummated a swap.  A good old fashioned baseball trade.  August of 2008, Jose Bautista gets traded to my hometown Toronto Blue Jays for a player to be named later, turning out to be Robinson Diaz.  My thoughts at the time on the trade went along the lines of, “…I can’t believe the Jays gave up Diaz, a young catching prospect for a non-hitting utility guy.  Wow, the Pirates won this deal hands-down.”  For the balance of 2008 and the majority 2009, Bautista did nothing to change my opinion.  Bautista hit few home runs and his average was barely above the Mendoza-line.  It was actually unbearable at points watching him in his first full season as a Jay, as Bautista did receive 336 at bats in 2009 but mostly due to injuries.  A very late season surge barely made up for a season worth of failures.  To say that I was not sold on the player at this point would be an understatement.  Expecting little to nothing of him going into the 2010 season, Bautista was about to change the baseball landscape and his image in the game forever.  The player that I once considered inferior as a prospect to Robinson Diaz was about to become the “Bautista Bomb.”

Jose Bautista’s 2010 season is in the record books and truly one for the ages.  A relative unknown quantity going into the year, all Bautista did was finish as the MLB home run leader and champion in 2010, with 54 home runs playing in all but one of the Blue Jays games that year.  Add to the total 109 runs scored, 124 runs driven in, 100 walks, .260 average and .995 OPS and Jose Bautista, once a 20th round pick in 2000 for the Pirates was all of a sudden a star.  It’s not like the Pirates were alone in their assessment of the player.  Bautista along the way also had cups of coffees with the Rays, Orioles and Royals.  Despite the many scouts and executives in baseball that analyze the game and review its players, in the age of video and statistics none were able to predict the slugging beast that Bautista would become.  J.P. Ricciardi, the general manager of the Blue Jays who acquired Jose Bautista, will have the Bautista/Diaz swap on his resume as the greatest baseball transaction of his career.  Ricciardi himself, now a New York Mets executive, admits that he never expected Bautista to develop the way he did.  While Ricciardi knew that Bautista had power in his bat having watched him on many occasions at spring training as the Jays and Pirates faced-off, the Bautista of 2010 was never on his radar.

Listening to industry insiders, Bautista in late 2009 made an adjustment to his approach at the plate and instead of being late going after the ball, Bautista was moving his hands quicker and starting his swing earlier.  Apparently the slight adjustment in his batting approach created all the difference in the world.  Credit then manager Cito Gaston, a former hitting coach, with one of his last and greatest teachings.  The big question going into 2011 was whether Jose Bautista was for real and could continue his success at the plate.  The next related issue was to determine Bautista’s value and future salary going into the offseason.  Bautista was arbitration eligible and due for a huge raise.

Going into the offseason that year, the Jays and Bautista were set to face-off in arbitration.  The 2010/2011 offseason saw a vast amount of speculation surrounding Jose Bautista’s contract and what the Jays were going to pay him.  As Bautista was eligible for free agency the next year, fans and commentators debated the winter months whether the Jays should sign Bautista to a long-term contract, let an arbitrator decide or use a one-year contract as a determination whether the production would continue and sign a long-term deal the next year.  As memories tend to get hazy over time, I will help remind everyone the thoughts that were prevalent at the time.  It was clear that if the Jays were to sign Bautista to a one-year contract, they would risk losing him to free agency the next year as another monster season was likely to bring the potential of multiple bidders and exorbitant contract offers.  Considering that Jayson Werth had signed that offseason with the Washington Nationals for seven years and $126 million, anything was possible.  Although unlikely, there was always the risk.  Arbitration was also seen as a risky proposition as feelings and relationships tend to get strained in such a process whereby teams do everything they can to devalue a player when going before an arbitrator.  Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos made it clear in the offseason that he was breaking rank in Toronto and adopting a Rays type policy of not negotiating with players once arbitration amounts were submitted both the team and player in the arbitration process.  The Blue Jays, who had not gone to arbitration with a player since 1997, appeared to be headed to a showdown with Jose Bautista as both team and player had submitted their numbers by the deadline without an agreement.  However further events were about to unfold to change the dynamic of the team that few saw coming with the likely effect of stabilizing the Jays for the next few seasons as a result.

On January 22, 2011, I remember vividly at 6:30p.m. driving in my car and listening to sports radio as the announcer broke the news that Mike Napoli had been traded to the Toronto Blue Jays.  Long being a Napoli supporter, to say that I was overjoyed at the news was an understatement.  Power hitting catchers do not grow on trees and with the Jays need for an additional power bat in the lineup, Napoli was a welcome addition.  The only question was the price the Jays had paid.  The news at the time was that the Jays were trading an outfielder but his identity was not known at the time.  I was sure that Bautista was the outfielder in question.  Going into arbitration, I determined that Bautista was worth at most three years and $24 million.  Given that Bautista was unproven and coming off only one strong campaign, there was too much risk in investing any additional dollars in the player.  It made sense to me that the Jays would trade Bautista while his value was at his highest for a known commodity in Napoli.   The next news update literally made me fall out of my chair.  The outfielder traded to the Angels was not Bautista but rather Vernon Wells.  Somehow Anthopoulos was able to unload Wells and his albatross of a contract onto the Angels and spin a productive player in Napoli in return, along with spare part outfielder Juan Rivera.  Hailed as a genius, Anthopoulos created payroll flexibility for the young and up-and-coming Jays while removing a player seen as declining, both in the field and at the plate.  The Wells contract, signed by the aforementioned Ricciardi which was blasted for years by critics as one of the worst ever was now gone.  It did not even occur to me when I first heard that Napoli was coming to Toronto that Wells was headed the other way.  The Wells contract was probably the most unmovable contract in sports and to hear those words simply astounded me, Jays analysts and the baseball community at large.  While the Angels were criticized for overspending and taking on a weak asset in Wells, hope was abound in Toronto and the future appeared to be bright after so many dismal and hopeless seasons before.  I predicted that Rivera, a free agent the next year would have a campaign that would likely mirror the numbers that Wells would put up in Anaheim.  With the outfielders numbers a wash and Napoli on board, the trade was overwhelmingly hailed as a victory for the Jays.

The Jays ended up a couple of days later flipping Mike Napoli to the Texas Rangers for reliever Frank Francisco.  The move was questioned and debated throughout baseball circles, in attempting to determine flipping a power bat for a power arm.  The jury is still out on the move and we will learn in the future whether Anthopoulos over-played his cards.  Jose Bautista on the other hand, had his arbitration hearing postponed at the last-minute in February as the team and player attempted to hammer out a new contract.  The numbers that I was hearing were a one year contract in the $10-$12 million dollar range.  That was the expectation as spring training approached.  On February 17, 2011, the Blue Jays announced that they had signed Jose Bautista to a five-year, $64 million contract.  At an average of almost $13 million per season for five seasons, the prevailing though in baseball was that the Jays had overpaid and taken on a significant risk.  Considering that they were fortunate enough to move Wells and his monster deal, the discussion was that the Jays had made a mistake by committing too much money and too many years to a player that could end up blowing up their face.  I will admit that when I heard the Bautista signing announcement, I hated it.  I saw the Bautista deal as the second coming off the Wells signing and commented that the lustre certainly was removed from Anthopoulos as GM fairly quickly.  One of the biggest questions going into the 2011 season was whether Bautista could repeat anything close to his numbers and be able to justify his large new salary.  While I read predictions of 20-30 home runs at most, the baseball community saw a decline and correction of Bautista’s numbers as he was to fall back to reality.  I cannot recall reading in February and March of any “expert” that predicted Bautista could approach anything close to his 2010 numbers.  I will admit that I was firmly in this camp and predicted a season of 30 home runs and .250 average at best.  Boy was I going to be wrong yet again on this one, as Jose Bautista going to teach the baseball world what he was really made of.

One report from spring training really stuck out to me.  Listening to news from around the Blue Jays camp, it was evident that there was no talk of Vernon Wells.  Management was not discussing the former Jays gold glove outfielder and team leader and none of the players were indicating that a void existed based on his departure.  That said to me a lot about the lack of value that Wells would have brought to the Jays had he remained.  The attitude around the Jays was positive.  A young squad, the team and its fans saw hope and optimism about with its young pitching and core developing hitters emerging.  Names like Drabek, Arencenbia, Lind, Lawrie, Snider and Romero were being tossed around as the Jays were going back to basics and having fun again.  At the center of it all as was the Jays developing leader and main power bat, Jose Bautista.  For the Jays to contend, Bautista would need to anchor the lineup and produce at a level close to his 2010 numbers.  While few saw that happening, it was clear that the ghost of Vernon Wells was gone from the team and the Toronto Blue Jays had a fresh new attitude.  But to say that anyone predicted that Jose Bautista was going to be the second coming of Albert Pujols or Babe Ruth in Toronto would be foolish.  Questions continued to circle around the Jays and Bautista going into the season that were only going to be answered once opening day was under way.

Throughout spring training, Bautista was playing third base as the team discussed playing an outfield of Rivera, Lind and newly acquired speedster Rajai Davis.  I was not a big fan of the move as I enjoyed watching Bautista play the outfield and with a cannon for an arm, I felt that he would best serve his team defensively in the outfield.  Despite being an adaptable fielder, it was my opinion that to have Bautista play at his peak, he needed to stay at one position and preferably at his most natural spot.  With the future of Brett Lawrie almost upon Toronto, I did not see the value of keeping Bautista at third.  Encarnacion, the incumbent third baseman was seen as somewhat defensively challenged to say the least.  Thus with few options in-house, the defensive alignment of the Jays was unknown as March was drawing to an end.  At the end of the month, the team out of nowhere announced that Bautista would indeed be the team’s right fielder on opening day, with Encarnacion moving to third.  Some how, some way, the team did listen to me and I was actually right about something when it came to Jose Bautista.  With his rightful position in place, now all Bautista had to do was hit.

Hit he did.  Over and over and over again.  Despite missing some games this season due to a personal leave (birth of baby daughter) and a sore neck, Jose Bautista in 2011 has become the talk of baseball.  Going into today’s action, Bautista has a .370 average with a major league leading 16 home runs (3 of which were hit on Sunday against the Twins in Minnesota), 35 runs scored, 27 runs batted in, 35/19 BB/SO ratio, .516 OBP and .849 SLG.  Imagine that Bautista has produced this season with little or no protection in the lineup.  Adam Lind was hot for a stretch of games but has since been out for some time with back issues.  I heard one baseball commentator compare what Jose Bautista is currently doing to Barry Bonds in his Giants peak years.  Bonds, like Bautista, had little protection in the lineup.  Without an all-star lineup like the Yankees around him, Bautista is vulnerable to be pitched around in the Jays lineup as their main and in some nights only true offensive threat.  Currently Bautista is getting maybe one or two good pitches to hit a game, which somehow Bautista is able to take advantage of and still hit them for home runs.  With a good eye at the plate and discipline, Bautista takes his fair share of walks and is not a Vladimir Guerrero  type hitter who takes balls out of the dirt and knock them out of the park for home runs.  The pace that Jose Bautista is currently on is rare and not often seen in the game.  We are witnessing what I can describe as “baseball magic” and people are finally taking notice.  No longer an afterthought or question mark, Jose Bautista is being recognized as the real deal and perhaps the greatest slugger currently in the game.

It is time to give the man his respect and due for his hard work and accomplishments.  While I will admit that I did not see Jose Bautista emerging, I can admit that I have been wrong almost every step of the way when it has come to this man’s career.  Baseball evaluations and predictions have never been an exact science.  For every Dan Uggla and Joakim Soria that I saw emerging, I have been left disappointed by the Phil Nevins and Todd Zeiles of this world.  I am happy to have been wrong on Jose Bautista and have been amazed at the player that he has become.  I was probably one of his biggest critics in the early part of his career and after some convincing, I have finally emerged as a believer.  I do not know Jose Bautista the person, although from all accounts and what I have seen he appears to be very personable and an extremely hard work on and off the field.  My feelings on the player have always centered on his hard numbers, statistics that he produced which to me always told the story.  Well if numbers never lie, then clearly the next big thing has emerged in baseball and his name is Jose Bautista.  As the Bautista bombs continue to launch throughout baseball, expect the player to get fewer and fewer pitches to hit as the season progresses.  Incredibly Bautista has only been walked intentionally twice this year and twice all of last year.  Barry Bonds in comparison, walked 232 times in his peak year of 2004, with 120 of the walks being intentional.  While not coming close to those figures, Bautista might exceed 150 walks this year and approach 175 by seasons end.  That is the sign of a great batting eye and a respected batter around the league.  Pitchers and teams are taking notice and despite doing all they can to limit him, Bautista continues to show a combination of power and patience at league leading levels.  I am finally ready to state that Jose Bautista is the real deal and is here to stay.  I think the rest of baseball finally agrees as well.

Thank you for reading my feature on the top home run hitter in baseball, Jose Bautista.  Please contact me if you have any questions and suggestions for future topics.  The E-mailbag will be posted Wednesday so please be sure to get all your MLB and fantasy baseball questions in by e-mailing me at: mlbreports@gmail.com.

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

The Toronto Blue Jays Reinvented

MLB reports:  2011 has been one of the most anticipated seasons in Blue Jays history. A young GM in Alex Anthopoulos has reinvented the organization from the top-down. From the hiring of experienced front office advisors, new scouts, John Farrell as manager, strong drafting and trades/ free agent signings, this is certainly not your father’s Blue Jays.

With three games already in the books, let’s take a look at some key aspects of the newest incarnation of the Jays:

1) Farrell plays to win. From switching up his lineups, getting his bench involved, pinch hits, pinch runners, pitching changes- John Farrell is an active manager. Whereas Cito Gaston was criticized for sitting on his hands, it is doubtful that Farrell sits for a moment during a game. I really like Farrell’s managing approach. If nothing else, the Jays of 2011 will never be boring.

2) Kyle Drabek is for real.  All Drabek did to start the year was take a no-hitter into the 6th and consistently throw strikes. Showing maturity beyond his years, Drabek looks to be a fixture in the Jays rotation for the next decade or so.

3) The Jays catching will be solid.  J.P. Arencebia crushed 2 home runs on opening day and Molina hit one of his own in the 2nd game of the series. Both catchers have looked comfortable behind the plate and working well with the pitching staff. Arencebia is no Johnny Bench yet, but he hits the ball hard every time out. He looks to be the next MLB catching superstar.

4) Jose is worth every penny. For the doubters of Jose Bautista, he has picked up where he left off last year. From crushing big home runs, taking walks and playing solid D, Bautista has become the face of the franchise. He is a threat every time at the plate and is receiving the respect of opposing teams. For those keeping score, Vernon Wells is hitting about .150 for the Angels thus far.

5) Adam Lind is getting there. Brian Butterfield has clearly worked hard with Lind at 1st and he is becoming above average to good in the field. Lind has also become a great clean up hitter for the Jays and should benefit from hitting behind Jose. A note to Adam though: no more first pitch ground outs with the bases loaded and two outs in the 9th inning anymore please.

6) Travis Snider is truly a superstar in the making. Please see my post on Travis from Saturday. Snider has a new stance and is much more patient at the plate. Snider had key walks and hits all weekend long. He also showcased his cannon in left on Sunday and I can see gold gloves and silver sluggers in his future.

7) The bullpen is stocked. Farrell has many weapons in his pen on any given night. From Francisco, Camp, Janssen, Rauch etc, the Jays have one of their deepest pens in history. Any starter that can give the Jays lead after 6 innings will give the team a high chance of victory. The Jays strong pen makes the team a force every game.

8) Speed. When healthy, the combination of Rajai Davis and Yunel Escobar gives the Jays boppers with an abundance of chances to drive in runs. Both Davis and Escobar are strong with their bats and legs. Having a running game gives the home run happy Jays a better balanced offense and nightmares for opposing pitchers.

9) Edwin Encarnacion and Juan Rivera. The weak link of the 2011 Jays, both men look lost at the plate. Worse, EE looks even more clueless in the field. After three games it is safe to say that no ball hit to third is safe when Encarnacion is out there. A better filler is in order until the Lawrie era begins. Rivera further is another frustration case who is only in Toronto as a salary dump by the Angels in the Vernon Wells deal. A free agent at year’s end, the rope for Rivera should be very short.

10) The atmosphere and vibe.  I have not seen Toronto this excited about the Jays in 18 years. The Jays shop had lineups all weekend and fans were cheering and on their feet throughout all of the games. With all of Toronto’s other sports teams in the gutter, the Blue Jays have a prime opportunity to become Toronto’s #1 team as well as reclaim its status as the face of Canadian sports.

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

 

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