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Author Archives: April Whitzman

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.

Adam Loewen and Dustin McGowan: Which Blue Jays Comeback is More Impressive?

Thursday September 15, 2011

 

 

April Whitzman (Blue Jays Writer- MLB reports):  Toronto Blue Jays fans have been asked a plethora of difficult questions this season, but none have been as tough as the following: Whose recent comeback is more impressive – Dustin McGowan’s or that of Adam Loewen?

When I was first tasked with writing this article, it was a question that I asked myself continually.  Every time I responded, my answer would change. Comparable to many fans I spoke to, September 5th was a day in Blue Jays history that I will never forget.  Dustin McGowan, after having three surgeries, and spending over three years away from the majors, got the call-up to return to the big leagues.  I was excited for him that day and can only imagine how he must have been feeling on his return.

The same excitement McGowan felt playing in the majors, must have been shared by Adam Loewen.  A former high draft pick of the Baltimore Orioles, Loewen was forced to change positions from pitcher to the outfield.  Loewen could have quit baseball all together; however he didn’t, as he changed positions, and chose to sign with the Blue Jays as an outfielder.  Although the Orioles tried to re-sign their once star pitching prospect, Loewen chose to sign with the Jays and begin his three-year journey back to the majors.  Canadian born, Loewen chose to sign with the Jays as the team he grew up cheering for.  As luck would have it, two days after Dustin McGowan’s return to the big leagues, Adam Loewen would be called up to the Blue Jays to make his triumphant return as well.

PRIOR TO INJURY

Prior to their injuries and subsequent recoveries, both players left the majors on a high.  Dustin McGowan made 19 starts in 2008, accumulating a record of 6-7 with 4.37 ERA. Comparatively, in 2006, reaching the major league level at the age of 22, Loewen also made 19 starts, recording a 6-6 record with a 5.37 ERA.  Injuries, however, soon took their toll.  Dustin McGowan would endure a torn rotator cuff, a torn labrum, and torn cartilage in his left knee.  Loewen, on the other hand, experienced a stress fracture to his pitching elbow.

MINOR LEAGUE JOURNEY

Dustin McGowan began his journey back to the majors July 2011, when he was back pitching in the minor leagues with the Dunedin Blue Jays.  In seven games, he recorded a 0-2 record with a 2.87 ERA in 15.2 innings pitched, holding opponents to a 228 batting average.  After a great performance with Dunedin, he was next sent to double-A.  Through five starts with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, McGowan saw both an increase in workload and results, including a record of 0-2 and a 2.47 ERA in 19.2 innings.

Loewen started out in high-A Dunedin in 2009 and hit .236 with 4 HR and 31RBI with .695 OPS in 335 at-bats.  Last year, in AA New Hampshire he had a .246 average, but the power numbers improved, as the former Oriole belted 13 homers and drove in 70 runs, while posting an OPS of .763.  After the Fisher Cats were eliminated from the Eastern League playoffs, he also worked on his plate discipline and power in the Arizona Fall League. This year, Loewen has proven that all of his hard work as part of his journey has been worth it.  In the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League, Loewen hit .308, with 17 home runs and picked up 84 RBIs.  Most impressive was his .888 OPS.

SINCE MLB CALL-UP

On September sixth, against the Boston Red Sox, McGowan threw four innings, surrendering three runs on five hits.  While he surrendered three walks, he also struck out five, the majority of them coming off his fastball, which was consistently hitting the mid 90s.  During his first start in the MLB since 2008, on September 11th against the Baltimore Orioles, McGowan’s plate consistency wavered.  He pitched three innings, allowing four earned runs, on three hits and five walks.  He is presently sporting a 9.00 ERA in two games played.

BC native Adam Loewen made his first appearance with the Blue Jays the day after McGowan, on September 7th.  In his first big league appearance as an outfielder Loewen went 1-3 with a run scored.  His best game came September 11th, (also a McGowan Start) versus Baltimore, where he went 2-3, with a home run, which he belted to centerfield.  However, many presume that Tuesday’s game against Boston, where Loewen went 0-4 with two strikeouts was his worst game thus far in a Blue Jays uniform.  Yet, I would like to point out, Loewen made a stupendous catch over the centerfield wall during that game to rob a home run away from the Red Sox, which in my eyes made up for the poor day at the plate.  The young Canadian is presently sporting a .300 average with three hits, two runs and a home run, with no walks and four strikeouts.

OVERALL

Both Adam Loewen and Dustin McGowan have come a long way since their respective career threatening injuries during the middle part of the decade. Each player symbolizes the heart and hustle motto that the Toronto Blue Jays have been preaching this year, as neither ever thought of quitting the game despite adversity.  The determination Loewen and McGowan have each shown in wanting to come back to Major League Baseball has also been extremely impressive.  Despite the small sample of success each has shown this month, I would suggest that both could be integral parts to a Blue Jays playoff run in the non-too-distant future.  Thus, returning back to the central question of whose return was more impressive…  I would have to say – – both.

 

What’s your opinion on the returns of Loewen and McGowan?  You can comment below, reach us by email at MLBreports@gmail.com and you can add me on twitter at @Alleycat17.  I look forward to hearing from you!

 

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.

MLB Expansion or Realignment: Should Canada get Another Baseball Team?

Thursday September 8, 2011

 

 

April Whitzman (Blue Jays Writer- MLB reports):  Should Canada get another Major League Team? It’s been a question that has been discussed ever since the Montreal Expos got relocated to Washington at the end of the 2004 season.  However, with the increased popularity of the Toronto Blue Jays nation-wide and the success of sports in large Canadian cities such as Vancouver and Montreal, it is a debate that is getting considerable attention. Here are my thoughts on the possibility of either MLB adding a new team to Canada or on having one relocated north.

 

VANCOUVER

 Let’s start with the possibility of whether Vancouver could support a Major League Baseball team. To begin, it should be considered that baseball interest has increased significantly in the city ever since the Vancouver Canadians became a Low-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. The Vancouver discussion has since shifted venue with the newly-renovated B.C Place Stadium. With over $600 million in upgrades and retrofitting, it is presently one of the most impressive structures in North America.

Let’s also take into account the size of Vancouver; with a surrounding area population of nearly three million, it is one of the biggest cities in the USA or Canada not to have a team.  Not only that, but there is history of baseball in Vancouver. In fact, BC Place Stadium hosted annual exhibition games for the Seattle Mariners back in the nineties when the Pacific Northwest Club had not yet moved into Safeco Field, and attendance was very acceptable. In fact, the exhibition games against the Toronto Blue Jays drew approximately 40,000 fans per game. 

Prior to being relocated to Sacramento, Vancouver also had an AAA-affiliate team that played out of Nat Bailey Stadium for Major League teams including the then California Angels, Oakland Athletics, Milwaukee Brewers, and Los Angeles Dodgers. Once again, Vancouver residents proved that baseball was important to them by having very good attendance at the games.

While I am still optimistic regarding the fact that a team in Vancouver would work, Andrew Forsyth, the Vancouver Canadians’ Beat Writer for JaysProspects.com, discussed a realistic angle, stating: “An MLB Team in Vancouver? That’s a tough sell. Vancouver is a dedicated hockey town, and baseball, be it the Blue Jays, Mariners or Canadians, rarely gets coverage in the local media. Thus, they will have a hard time drawing a crowd as long as the Canucks are on the ice. Plus, with Scotia Bank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium only holding a crowd of 5,100, the team would have to go to the retro-fitted BC Place which is already home to the BC Lions and the Vancouver Whitecaps. Although Vancouver is a city that does well hosting multiple sports teams, they are a fair-weather fan base with a minority of dedicated Baseball fans. Thus, the hardest sell of all is that Vancouver fans don’t react well to teams that don’t make the playoffs, so if a team were to come, they’d need to be immediately strong.”

Thus, taking all of this into consideration, the question is asked again – Is there a future for MLB in Vancouver? As Forsyth states, it is definitely a tough sell. But, I believe that due to the increased publicity of Vancouver as a land of sports (thanks in part to the 2010 Winter Olympics), it is evident that fans in Vancouver would love a MLB team in their city… they’d just need to win!

 

MONTREAL

On a personal note, I should admit that the only time I have seen my father cry was during the Montreal Expos final home game. While I was only 17 at the time, I remember it perfectly like it was yesterday. It was September 29, 2004, and the Expos lost 9-1 to the Florida Marlins – definitely not the way the wanted to end their career in Canada. 31,395 fans were in the stands, including myself, and of course, my weeping father. While they lost their last home game, the Expos finished their season with a win, defeating the New York Mets by a score of 8-1 on October 3rd. That was it, after 36 seasons, 2,753 wins, 2,942 losses, 2,786 home games, 2 inadequate ball parks, and 108,858,412 fans who saw only one single postseason appearance. The Montreal Expos were no more.

Still people ask:  could they come back?

This question is asked even more on a regular basis now that the NHL has brought back the Winnipeg Jets and that their fan base has doubled. But could the same occur for the Montreal Expos? Personally, I think that it is a harder sell for Montreal than Vancouver, as there are many improvements they would need in order for this unlikely dream to become a reality.

For starters, the reincarnated Expos franchise would absolutely need a new stadium. While I loved the park as a kid, Olympic Stadium is simply not a good place to play baseball. This new stadium should also need a retractable roof. While Montreal has always been against having a retractable roof, they need it due to the weather in the early and late parts of baseball season. And by having it retractable, the new team could play outdoor baseball – and still not have any weather-related postponements at home, just like its Canadian counterpart, the Toronto Blue Jays.

Similar to Vancouver, another aspect that must occur is that the team will need to be successful. Montreal is tired of having losing teams and if the Blue Jays are any indication, fans only go to the games if there are top-tier players (Jose Bautista, Brett Lawrie, etc) playing. Lastly, if Montreal does receive a team, there is one final thing that must occur – the team needs to be called the Montreal Expos. As comparable to the  new Winnipeg Jets, fans need the history behind the franchise. Keeping the name is the only way this can be done. (Of course, signing Montreal native and current New York Yankee catcher Russell Martin could also be a great addition to the team).

Many blame the downfall of the Expos on the fans and on the fact that most of the population is French, resulting in a barrier between the players and fans. However, I still place most of the responsibility on the 1994 strike-suspended season which stopped the Expos season, which was on pace to win 105 games that year. This disenchanted the fan base, and within two years the team parted with Marquis Grissom, Larry Walker, Delino DeShields and John Wetteland, and the foundation began to crumble. Thus, I do not think the fans are to blame, but rather the lost season which ended up being the team’s downfall. As in Winnipeg, I believe  that only the fans would be able to bring baseball back to the city.

Another issue, however, is the competition that would arise between the Montreal Expos and the Toronto Blue Jays. No, I am not referring to the rivalry that used to occur every Canada Day (July 1st) between the two teams, but instead, to the competition that would occur on network television and within the media. There is no doubt that competing television interests put the Expos in direct competition with the Jays in the 80s and 90s and set Montreal on a downhill slide. With Rogers Sportsnet already taking precedence of the Blue Jays and growing a larger fan base by the minute, my guess that media and broadcasting would definitely be a slippery slope if the Expos were to return as well.

While Forsyth gave me his thoughts on the addition of an MLB team in Vancouver, I was also curious to hear his thoughts regarding Montreal as well. To this, he stated, “Montreal is even more of a hockey town than Vancouver, so once again, if a pro team were to re-enter the province, my guess is that priority would be placed on getting the Nordiques to return to Quebec. It’s tough. Canadians love their hockey.”

While Quebec does love its hockey, it is apparent that many miss the peanuts and crackerjacks in their province. They have since tried to fill the void in their lives with a successful independent Can-Am league ballclub that is only a few hours away (in Quebec City) from Olympic Stadium. Despite the team’s success, I still agree with Gilles Taillon, Baseball Quebec’s administration director, as he stated: “For MLB to come back to Montreal, it would have to go through the Minor League route first.” As opposed to Vancouver, Montreal presently does not have a minor-league team to gauge MLB interest in the province. With strong rumors that Ottawa could be receiving an AAA team in the near future, Montreal should make bids and efforts to gain a team as well. If that team is successful and fans prove there is dedication, there is always possibility that Major League Baseball could arrive in Montreal in the future.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

There are many questions that arise if in fact a team did move north to Canada; the first of which, is deciding which league it would join. Many speculate that the new team would join the National League, where the Expos once reigned.  Despite the fact that the first Canadian team played in the NL and has historical rivalries there, the American League might be a better fit. The NL already has two extra teams, thus, by adding a team to the AL, it would represent one more step in leveling the playing field. Specifically, and certainly if a team were to move to Vancouver, I would move the team to the AL West. This would not only enable strong competition with the Seattle Mariners (only about 150 miles from Vancouver), but would bring in a perfect rivalry with the Toronto Blue Jays, as they have British Columbia native, Brett Lawrie.

Another option, however, is to relocate a team to a Canadian city. The first team that comes to mind is the Tampa Bay Rays, as both their field, and their fan base are diminishing despite productive seasons and exciting players. In the case of such a relocation, I would not keep the newly moved team in the AL East, but rather I would move the team to the AL West for the reasons explained above. If a team needs to be re-added to the AL East, my thoughts would be to add the Detroit Tigers to the division (who should have never left the east in the first place in my opinion, based on its rivalries with the Jays, Orioles, Yankees and Red Sox).

 

Overall, these are just my personal thoughts, which only touch the surface of whether Canada should get another Major League team. That being said, I would love to hear your opinions! So be sure to email your comments to MLBreports@gmail.com or to post them at the bottom of this article and add me to Twitter at @Alleycat17. Looking forward to hearing from you!

 

 

Twitter and Baseball: Thoughts from Toronto Blue Jays Prospects

Thursday September 1, 2011

 

 

April Whitzman (Guest Writer- MLB reports):  There is no denying that social media has completely changed the sports world. It changes the way we watch it, the way we consume it, and the way we interact with it. Sports fans used to live their lives with everything at arm’s length, but now, it is just a finger click away.

One of the biggest advancements that social media has presented is the ability for fans to interact with players, and in return, allow the players to be able to interact with the fans. This has become predominant thanks to one specific social media tool, Twitter. Discussing this opportunity, I spoke with numerous Toronto Blue Jays prospects, who frequently engage on Twitter, to discuss their thoughts on this subject.

I first spoke with Justin Jackson, the Toronto Blue Jays 1st round pick of the 2007 MLB Draft. He has found great success this year as the present outfielder for the Dunedin Blue Jays, posting a .265 batting average. Despite his success at the plate, many Blue Jays fans are even more impressed with his ability to interact with everyone on Twitter via his handle of, @JaxChillinONE. When asked what he likes best about the tool, Jackson replied, “My favourite thing about Twitter is definitely the interaction with fans and friends!”

Next, I turned to Ian Kadish, present reliever for the Bluefield Blue Jays. He has been dominant on the mound, maintaining a 2-3 record with a 2.67ERA in 23 games. What has also been more dominant, however, is his ability to consistently keep his fans and followers updated and connected. Not only does Kadish inform via his Twitter handle, @BearJew36, but he also has his own blog featured at: http://livinginthelifeofian.blogspot.com/. Discussing his activity on social media, Kadish informed me:  “There is no denying that I am a fan of social media, but I realize that it has its positives and negatives.  Athletes need to be smart about it. I definitely think it has brought the athletes and fans closer together because they can interact with each other much easier.  It is more of an interactive environment where fans can give the athlete their praise or tell them how bad they were on that specific day.  Hopefully, the latter does not happen, but sometimes it will, so athletes need to take the comments with a grain of salt.”

Kadish’s statement regarding the fact that players must be cautious could not be more accurate. It was also echoed by Sam Strickland, who is also a reliever for the Toronto Blue Jays organization. This season, with the Lansing Lugnuts, Strickland has posted a 3-1 record with a 4.98 ERA yet has also proven his command and control on the Twitter mound via his handle of @S_Strickland34. Strickland stated, “Without fans, baseball has no purpose. Being a professional athlete comes with a few attachments of the field – Including answering to fans. If you have a great game, people will notice, as is the same with a poor game. And as a pro athlete you have to learn that both occur. It wasn’t that long ago that I was the huge crazy fan, so I am definitely an advocate for social media being intertwined with pro sports. It allows closer access. We as athletes just have to be careful!”

Right-handed pitcher for the Bluefield Blue Jays, Tucker Jensen (@Tucker_Jensen), also highlighted the fact that social media does have its faults, but indicated how the positives certainly outweigh each and everyone. He stated: “Of course, through social media, an athlete is going to hear both praise and hate because of their play. That is just the way sports work. But what needs to be realized is that it is beneficial because it allows others such as JaysProspects or myself to communicate with one another and at the same time get updates of the individuals being followed.”

Steve McQuail has shown his power this season with the Vancouver Canadians, already hitting 12 home runs. He has also shown his power online as well, as through his handle @SteveMcQuail, McQuail consistently keeps his followers updated with his progress throughout the season. He admitted his praise of social networking, indicating: I think Twitter is an amazing tool because it gives people the opportunity to get on a personal level with their favorite players, stars or idols. You can pick up on everyday routines of the people you look up to, an option that was never available before.”

@Mark_Biggs, a right-handed pitcher who only joined the Blue Jays organization a few weeks ago upon signing in the 8th round of the 2011 MLB Draft., echoed McQuail’s statements, indicating, “I think the major benefit of social networking is for people to follow their favorite athletes or actors or whatever the case may be, and allow them to directly interact with them. It’s a unique and wonderful opportunity!”

Brandon Berl, known by his Twitter handle, @Brandon_Berl, has posted a 3-5 record with a 2.47 ERA with the Lansing Lugnuts so far this season. While Berl shows his presence frequently with the Lugnuts, appearing in 28 games so far this season, he shows his presence on Twitter even more regularly. When he was asked to discuss his thoughts on social media, he answered: Social media has definitely added a great opportunity to connect with fans and for them to learn a little bit more about me and all other players.  I have enjoyed the opportunity to communicate with fans and engage with new people and I cannot wait to do so with more!”

Lastly, I spoke with Jonathan Jones, @JonJones707, who echoed all of the Blue Jays thoughts perfectly, stating, I believe that Twitter is a great tool. It gives the fans access to follow their favorite players and see what they are doing, learn their likes and dislikes, and even get to see photos. It allows fans to feel like they have a personal relationship and for the athletes, and in return, it allows us (the players) to see all the fans’ love and support. It goes a long way for us.” 

Knowing that it goes a long way, make sure you follow each and every player mentioned on Twitter. While you are at it, also follow me on Twitter at @Alleycat17. For more information on these players and for regular updates, also add @JaysProspects, or visit www.JaysProspects.com.

 

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our guest writer, April Whitzman.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.***

 

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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