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Jonathan Broxton Signs with the Royals: Joakim Soria to be Traded?

Wednesday November 30, 2011

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  Another reliever is off the market.  On Tuesday, the Kansas City Royals announced that they had signed former Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton to a 1-year contract.  The deal is reported to be for $4 million, with an additional $1 million in incentives.  There will be an official announcement once Broxton passes his physical.  Given his health over the past couple of seasons, there are no guarantees that this deal will go through.  But assuming that Broxton’s elbow has recovered from his September surgery, he should be an official member of the Royals any day now.

There are many significant items to come out of this signing.  Broxton was in heavy demand, with at least a dozen teams interested.  The Royals did have to pay a premium to land him, considering the state of his health in recent times.  Looking at the numbers, Broxton had three solid seasons between 2006-2008 as a middle reliever and part-time closer.  He broke out in a big way in 2009, with 36 saves, 2.61 ERA and 0.961 WHIP.  Broxton’s slide began in 2010 and he was shut down effectively for most of 2011.  The Royals are banking on a return to form for the 27-year old Broxton.  At a reported playing weight of 300 lbs., Broxton will need to come in shape to camp and work hard this offseason to be an effective Major League pitcher.  He is still young and has the arm.  The big variables will be is the health of his elbow and his commitment to conditioning.

Based in Georgia, it is reported that location played a large part in his decision to sign with the Royals.  With an up-and-coming Royals team, Broxton could be a good fit as the team looks to be a playoff contender in the near future.  At worst, the team will lose $4 million for a season.  But the upside could be a very effective setup man or closer at a reasonable rate.  A low risk- high reward proposition for the Royals.  So now, where does this leave Joakim Soria?  The Royals have denied interest in moving their top closer.  I would disagree.  Regardless of whether the Broxton signing goes through, it is my gut feeling that Joakim Soria will not be a Royal come 2012.

 The Royals have set themselves up quite nicely in the bullpen.  After Soria and Broxton, the team still has Aaron Crow, Tim Collins and Greg Holland, among others, as setup men and possible closing options.  If Broxton were to take over as closer for Soria in 2012, this would allow the other members of the pen to develop and grow.  At least one of these bullpen candidates could be groomed into a closer by late 2012 or 2013.  The options are there for the Royals.  In fact, with so many valuable bullpen arms, the team could even try Aaron Crow into the rotation.  I see his fit likely best in the bullpen, but at the least the option is there…and options are a good thing.  When I look at Joakim Soria though, I see a valuable chip that can be moved to better the team in the long term.

After four strong seasons in the Royals pen, Soria is coming off a weak 2011 by his standards.  He still finished with 28 saves, but also had a 4.03 ERA and 1.276 WHIP.  The Royals have to ask themselves a couple of questions.  Given Soria’s arm troubles in the past, could he get injured?  Also, will 2011 be a blip on the radar or a sign of things to come?  Let’s face it: pitchers, especially relievers, are injury risks.  To compound possible health issues, closers are at risk to implode at any time and lose their job.  Soria has been outstanding for several seasons.  Is he the next Mariano Rivera or Jonathan Papelbon? Or another B.J. Ryan or Bobby Thigpen?  None of us can look into a crystal ball and tell.  But what we do now is that there are only a handful of closers in major league history that were effective long term and consistently reliable for their careers.  For every Goose Gossage and Trevor Hoffman, there are hundreds of closers that were strong early in their career and faded.  With the Royals about 2-3 seasons away from contending, Soria is a luxury that they cannot afford to keep at this stage.

For a team looking to acquire Soria, he is signed to a very reasonable contract.  He will make $6 million in 2012 and has 2 team options for 2013-2014 at approximately $8 million per season.  The Royals can choose to keep Soria and perhaps be set at the closer position for another decade.  Or they can keep a reliever that can be injured or ineffective in 2012, thus discounting heavily his trade value.  They also run the risk of losing Soria as a free agent after the 2014 season.  The point is that the longer they wait, the less the Royals will get back for Soria.  With Broxton and company in the bullpen, the Royals would easily find themselves a setup man and closer for 2012 without likely missing a beat.  But given what Soria can bring back in trade value, this is a move that likely should and will happen.

Despite denials from both the Blue Jays and Royals, some outlets have reported discussions of a Colby Rasmus for Joakim Soria swap.  Not a bad move for either team.  I don’t see this trade happening, unless the Royals include another prospect bat (i.e. Wil Myers) and the Blue Jays include a top starting pitching prospect.  The Blue Jays have a glut of outfielders in their system, including Jose Bautista, Rasmus, Travis Snider, Eric Thames and Anthony Gose.  The Jays can afford to move an outfielder to acquire the closer they seek.  The top free agent closer at this point is Heath Bell.  At 34-years of age, I would not be terribly excited to give him the 3-year contract he seeks.  Plus he would prefer to play on the West Coast?  Ryan Madson?  To come close to the 4-year, $44 million contract that the Phillies reportedly offered him would be ludicrous, given that he only has 1 full season of closing experience.  For the Jays, given age, contract and ability, their top target should be Soria.  The team was looking at Papelbon before he signed with the Phillies- a sign that they do not want to grab a closer off the scrapheap.  They want the real deal.

Rasmus has the potential to be an all-star and top outfielder for years to come.  A big price for the Jays to pay.  One that I just don’t see happening.  Rasmus though will be the price unless the Jays can offer a good package for Soria.  I think that they have the will and the ability to make this deal happen.  Travis Snider will be the first prospect to be included in the package.  He has not shown enough in Toronto and likely needs a change of scenery at this point to thrive.  The offensive and defensive potential of this young outfielder are still there.  At 23-years of age, the Royals would be acquiring a former 1st round pick who should be major league ready for them in 2012.  But what else to include?  I could see 1-2 pitching prospects heading to Kansas City.  But the name I am stuck on is Brandon Morrow.  Acquired from the Mariners for Brandon League, the 27-year old Morrow has pitched two fairly inconsistent seasons in the Jays rotation.  He has electric stuff, as shown by his 203 strikeouts in 179 1/3 innings this past season.  He is an enigma, much like Edwin Jackson.  Some of the best stuff in baseball but unable for some reason to consistently put it together for a full season.  The 28-year old Jackson will likely obtain a 3-year deal in the $50 million range this offseason.  Considering that Morrow is controllable for another 3 seasons, he could be attractive for the Royals as a potential top starter.

The Soria for Morrow and Snider swap should benefit both the Jays and Royals in the short and long term.  Some people may be surprised that the Jays would move Morrow.  But given the depth of young starters in their system and perhaps waning confidence in Morrow, the time might be right for him to move on.  Thames has already moved ahead of Snider on the depth chart, with Gose likely ready in the next couple of seasons.  The time is also right for Snider to find a new home and advance his career.  I can see the combination of Moustakas, Butler, Snider, Myers and company pounding out runs for the Royals for many seasons.  Joakim Soria, on the other hand, could be signed to a long-term deal by the Jays and become the top closer they have craved for at least the next five seasons.  A good old fashioned baseball trade that benefits both teams.

So there we have it folks.  Jonathan Broxton is likely to become a Royal very soon.  If he does come on board, the Royals are in great shape to move Joakim Soria and fill out some needs in their outfield and starting rotation.  But even if the Broxton deal falls through, the Royals have the depth to still trade their closer.  The Blue Jays, with one of the top systems in baseball, have the pieces to make a deal with the Royals.  Don’t count out Alex Anthopoulos and Dayton Moore.  These are two of the sharpest GMs in baseball.  Neither one will show their hands until they play their cards.  Expect a deal to possibly come as soon as the Winter Meetings.  The MLB reports crystal ball appears to be very clear on a deal of this magnitude coming.  Stay tuned!

 

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

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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Ask the Reports: Saturday November 19th

Saturday November 19, 2011

Jonathan Hacohen:  Ask the Reports is back! After some thought and re-branding: we have decided to drop the E-mailbag moniker and to keep this section as “Ask the Reports”, which will appear every weekend.  E-mails is but one form you can reach MLB reports. You can follow us on Twitter  and tweet and direct message your questions and comments.  You can “Like” us on Facebook and write on our wall.  You can also leave all questions and comments at the end of each article and page on the website. With social media exploding as it has, we are truly connected in so many ways.  

So keep reading MLB reports. Everyday. Twice a day or more if your schedule allows it. Subscribe to the site to have all current articles sent to your e-mailbox. But most of all:  participate. Send tweets. Write on our Facebook wall. Comment on articles and leave feedback. MLB reports is for you: the readers. The love of baseball is best nurtured if enjoyed as a community. So don’t be shy. Get in touch with us as often as you can. Let your voice be heard on our Facebook wall. There is nothing better than an old-fashioned baseball debate.  We call it MLB4Life on Twitter because we all love baseball for life. Baseball is more than a passion.  It is a lifestyle. Thank you for enjoying MLB reports and we look forward to hearing from you.  Plus you never know when your questions will be answered in “Ask the Reports”: so keep checking and asking your questions every week!

Let’s get to your questions:

Q:  If a modern-day MLB pitcher won 20 games for 20 seasons, he would still be 111 wins short of Cy Young’s win record..  From Eric, LA
 
A:  Great comment.  A true reflection on the evolution of the game.  Let’s start by taking a look at the career of Cy Young:
Denton True Young (aka Cy Young).  Born March 29, 1867 in Ohio.  Threw right-handed, stood 6’2″ and weighed 210 pounds.  He played for 22 seasons: 1890-1911.  He finished his career with a 511-316 lifetime record.  He actually had 5 seasons of 30+ wins.  36 in 1892 and 35 in 1895 being the career highs.  The man pitched in 906 games, starting 815 of them.  He threw 7356 career innings.  Ponder that one for a minute.  He had 5 seasons of 400 + innings and a dozen more seasons of 300-399 innings.  17 years of 300+ innings pitched.  If a modern-day pitcher were to pitch 200 innings per year for 20 years, he would reach 4000 innings.  About half of Cy Young.  That says a lot to me.  In the modern age, the only person that will come close to pitching those kind of innings was Nolan Ryan.  The Ryan Express pitched for 27 seasons.  807 games, 773 starts.  5386 innings pitched.  Career record:  324-292.  So to win as many games as Cy Young, you would need to win 25 games per year for 20 years.  An impossible feat in today’s modern game.  A pitcher would need to start 35-40 games and pitch 300-400 innings per year.  With closers, middle relievers and the stats of MLB bullpens, teams will not allow their starters to go deep into all those ballgames.  A “quality” start is 6 innings pitched.  At 30+ starts per year, most starters today are lucky to crack 200 innings.  Without the starts and innings, starting pitchers have less and less chances to stay deep in games to win.  Plus pitchers need offensive support and health to stay on the field and have a chance to gain wins.  Teams have 5-man rotations and also skip  or push back starts during the season.  We will never see another Cy Young.  Not the way baseball is played today.
 
 
Q:  What do you think Pat Burrell will do after he retires?  Fans of Pat Burrell
 
A:  I could see Burrell taking time off from the game.  Counting his dollars and maybe taking in a party or two (rumor has it that he is somewhat of a ladies’ man…).  But given his quality eye at the plate with pop, Burrell clearly knew a thing or two about hitting in his day.  Almost 300 home runs and 1000 walks do not happen by accident.  When Pat the Bat is ready to return to the game, he will join the Giants or Phillies likely as a minor league hitting instructor, or full-time hitting coach.  If he can show he can coach in the minors, you could see him as a hitting coach or 1st base coach one day in the major leagues.  Pat the Bat has a future in baseball- provided that he can teach and work well with the kids in helping them develop their abilities at the plate.
 
 
Q:  With 8 years and $160 Million, is Matt Kemp worth Manny Money or did L.A. pay a $30 Million premium to keep him off the open market next year?  Or both?  From Jason
 
A:  They did call Matt Kemp “Baby Manny” for a reason.  The Bison has always been highly touted coming up with the Dodgers.  For the last 2 seasons going into this year, some of that promise was starting to show.  Campaigns with 26 and 28 home runs respectively will catch people’s eyes.  Kemp looked like a .290 hitter with 20+ home run pop.   Pretty good- but not a superstar.  Then in 2011, Kemp simply exploded.  He led the league with 39 home runs and 126 RBIs, a difficult feat considering he had little support in the lineup and played his home games in a pitcher’s park.  With a .324 average, we nearly had a triple crown winner.  Kemp had a .399 OBP and .586 SLG.  Superstar numbers.  I am torn in analyzing him.  He was a year away from free agency.  Is he worth $20 Million per year for 8 years?  That is all relative.  Here is how I can best put it: what if Kemp would have hit .290, with 25 home runs with 90 runs and 90 RBIs in 2012 and hit free agency?  Would he have received the same deal?  Very likely.  At that point would the Yankees or Red Sox given him 7 years and $140 million to sign?  Carl Crawford got that same deal last year.  At 28 years of age, Kemp has shown good health and appears to be in great shape.  To say he is able to keep this pace until 35-years of age is not a stretch.  At worst, Kemp would have landed $15 million per season for 7 years, a total of $105 million.  So my thoughts are that the Dodgers would have needed to pay him $20 million for 2012 regardless.  By signing him early, they may have overpaid by $35 million over the life of the deal.  Or Kemp could have signed for $5 million per season on the open market (if no other alternatives) and cost an additional $35 million.  In a perfect world, it would have been nice to have seen more 2011-type seasons from Kemp before handing him this type of contract.  But given his fairly strong track record, health and young age, the Dodgers needed to lock him up now or risk very much losing him after 2012?  Did they overpay?  Not much by free agency standards.  Even if they overpaid by $30 million over the life of the contract, as long as Kemp continues to stay healthy and produce great to strong numbers, this was a deal that had to get done.  With the ownership turmoil and inability to attract and keep key players, this signing sends a message that the Dodgers are “back in business.”  Exactly what the fans want to hear.
 
 
Q:  Thoughts on Cespedes and Darvish? Any chance Blue Jays sign ’em?  From Thomas
 
A:  There are approximately fans from 30 MLB teams that are hoping their teams will make a push for the 2 likely biggest international free agents.  Yu Darvish from Japan and Yoennis Cespedes from Cuba.  While Darvish will need to be posted and bid upon, Cespedes once declared would be free to sign with any team.  At 26-years of Cespedes is reported to be major league ready.  Viewers of his YouTube video are excited at his abilities at the plate.  He will reportedly cost in the $50 million range to sign.  Darvish, at 25-years of age, is one of the most highly touted pitchers ever to come from Japan.  If he is posted (which is still a big-if at this stage), Darvish is likely to cost north of $100 million (with the posting fee) to sign.  Will the Jays sign either or both?  My answer: no.  Not because the team is not competitive.  Far from it.  But because they will not throw a lot of money on risky propositions.  Neither player has played a single inning of Major League Ball.  No matter how each has fared competitively to-date, few could predict how their games will translate to the major leagues.  The Jays are already stacked in the oufield, with Bautista, Rasmus, Snider and Thames to choose from.  Edwin Encarnacion is even being tried out in the outfield in winterball.  Anthony Gose is also a young hot-shot prospect that will be landing in Toronto soon.  The Jays do not have a strong need for an outfielder and certainly will not want to devote a large portion of their budget to an unknown like Cespedes.  Especially given the mixed track record of Cuban hitters thus far in the majors.  The Jays’ budget would be better spent on pitching.  But to pay $50 million to win the Darvish posting and then sign him for another $50 million, that could translate to $20 million per season for 5 seasons.  That is insanity money.  At that point, I would rather sign C.J. Wilson for 5-years $100 million.  A far more certain return.  The Jays will pick up a strong DH bat this offseason, perhaps a new first baseman and 1-2 new starting pitchers.  They will be shopping.  But no mail-order-players are likely coming anytime soon to Toronto.
 
 
Final Q:  Psychology professor asked what our biggest stressors in life are. I said Brandon Inge still being a Tiger. Everyone looked at me weird.  From Ashley
 
A:  Time to change schools?  If any of your classmates are baseball fans, they must not watch the Tigers very often or simply fail to grasp the horrible play of Inge.  I rarely use the word “hate”. But as a Tigers follower (yes…they are my team), I do not have the time of day for Inge.  The team has him signed for 1 more season at $5.5 million and a team option for $6 million in 2013 or a $500K buyout.  Expect the buyout.  I get that he is a great team guy, and blah blah blah.  In 144 games in 2010, he hit .247 with 13 home runs.  Looking at his numbers, he had a great year in 2006 and 2009.  That is it.  But yet the Tigers have him signed through to 2012.  Last year, Inge hit .197 with 3 home runs and earned himself a trip back to the minors.  At 34-years of age.  He is done.  Done as dinner.  Stick the fork in him.  One of the most gifted defensive players that I have ever watched, he could do it all with the glove.  Perhaps he sticks around as a late-inning defensive replacement.  He is a good emergency catcher and strong third baseman.  But his career as a full-time player is over.  If the Tigers are prepared to leave him on the bench and mentor the young players, I am all for it.  But otherwise, they need to hang onto Ramon Santiago and simply let the Inge-era end.  Brandon Inge has cool tattoos and has provided some spark hits through his career.  Its time for the Tigers to thank him for his contributions and move on.   Thank you Ashley for understanding.  I feel your pain.
 
 

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Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)


Drew Taylor Interview: The Story of an Intercounty League Pitcher

Wednesday  September 21, 2011

 

 

MLB reports:  We are proud today to feature on MLB reports:  Drew Taylor, former Philadelphia Phillies and Toronto Blue Jays prospect pitcher, currently playing in the Intercounty Baseball League.  Based in Ontario, Canada, the Intercounty League has produced several major league players including Rob Butler, Rich Butler and current Brewers closer, John Axford.  Drew’s baseball blood lines run deep, as his father Ron Taylor is former MLB pitcher himself.  Part of the 1969 Miracle Mets during his playing career, Dr. Taylor is a long time team doctor for the Toronto Blue Jays.    From getting signed by the Jays, having a World Series champion pitcher as a father, recovering from injuries and life in the Intercounty League and working towards becoming a doctor, we covered many topics with Drew.  For a great baseball tale from a different part of the game, we present our recent interview with Drew Taylor:

MLB reports:  Welcome to the Reports Drew.  Thank you for taking time out of your schedule for this interview.  First question we always like to ask: who was your favorite baseball player growing up, that you most idolized and patterned your game after?

Drew Taylor:  I always loved to watch David Wells pitch when I was younger. As a lefty I learned a lot about setting up hitters and how to use a curveball effectively against left- and right-handed batters. I also loved his approach. He went right after hitters no matter who they were and rarely fell behind in the count. A true lefty – he was a character on and off the mound. I had the chance to get to know him a little when he was playing in Toronto. When I was in high school, I threw a bullpen in Spring Training for the Jays. I didn’t know I would be throwing that day so I only had my first baseman mitt with me. He gave me a glove to use and watched me throw giving me some pointers after the pen, very generous; he is the kind of guy that would give you the shirt off his back. I also learned a great deal from watching him that day in the way he treated people and engaged with fans asking for his autograph. Down to earth.

MLB reports:  Which current MLB star do you most admire and why?

Drew Taylor:  I would have to say Travis Snider. I played with Travis our first year in the Blue Jays minor leagues and actually lived with him for the first part of the season. He came into the Jays straight out of high school and was thrust into a system that was known for drafting mostly college athletes. Here he was living with Jeff Gilmore, who graduated early from Stanford and had already begun a Masters in History and myself, already with Undergraduate and Masters degrees from the University of Michigan. But in truth, Travis was probably the most mature of the group of us. As I got to know Snider I found out why. He had faced a great deal for a kid of his age. There have been a number of articles written him since he broke into a big leagues focusing on what he and his family went through while he was in high school.  If you haven’t read them, I suggest you look them up.  I won’t go into all the details here, but in short when his mother was dealing with serious health issues, he was placed in a difficult situation at a very young age. As the only son, he stepped up to be a rock for his family. There are a lot of talented athletes that get drafted and Snider is definitely one of them.  Sometimes though it is experiences like these that separate the men from the boys and dictate who will have the resolve and discipline to make the jump to the big leagues.

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

Drew Taylor: I transferred for my sophomore year to the University of Michigan from Georgia Tech in 2003. I came into a program that had a great history but had struggled in the past few seasons, finishing only 21-32 the previous year. Rich Maloney had moved from Ball State to the Michigan to take the helm as head coach. He called each player in one by one before the season, sat us down and laid out what he expected of us. It was the first time a coach had talked to me that way. He demanded excellence and explained how each one of us as individuals could contribute to the team’s success. I owe a great deal to Rich and would not have had the success I had that year without his ability to inspire his athletes and instill confidence in them. He turned that program around and we ended up 30-27 that year, climbing to 43-21 and winning the Big Ten by the time I graduated. “Those who stay will be champions.” I personally ended up 9-1 in 2003, making the All-Big Ten and All-Region Teams and was given the Geoff Zahn award for Michigan’s top pitcher. After pitching only 9.1 innings the previous year, this was a big turnaround for me. Rich knows how to get the most out of his players and I hope he remains a college coach so I can send my kids his way one day.

MLB reports:  You were signed in 2006 by the Toronto Blue Jays after the draft. Were you scouted by certain teams before the draft and were you expecting to be drafted?

Drew Taylor:  The most amount of attention I received was probably in 2001. My velocity shot up during my final year of high school and while pitching for the Ontario Blue Jays the summer before starting university. I had a number of clubs call and make offers, including the Rockies, Blue Jays, and Braves, to see if I would forgo school to sign professionally. But I was dead set on getting my education. While at Michigan, I had a great sophomore year going 9-1 and followed it up with a good showing in the Cape League which drew some attention again. Then during my draft eligible Junior year I ended up injuring my shoulder in my first start of the year. I tried to come back and pitch a couple of times, but ended up having to shut it down for the season. That effectively ended any chance I had of getting picked up in the draft, so I focused on my rehab, knowing that I would be back at Michigan the next year and would have to prove I could compete all over again. In 2006, the Blue Jays called right after my final game and signed me to a free-agent contract. I reported to camp two days later.

MLB reports:   Being signed by your hometown Jays must have been very special.  What were your feelings after the draft and what was the process like up until the time you were signed?

Drew Taylor:  Being signed by your hometown team is always special, but there were so many things on the go I didn’t get much of a chance to sit down and enjoy the feeling. When I got the call I was in Michigan right after we got back from the NCAA Regionals in Atlanta. It was a little bit of a whirlwind because I had just got back to my apartment when I was told I was leaving again in two days. In those two days, I quickly packed up my apartment and hit the road for Toronto. Kevin Briand and Sean McCann were the scouts that signed me and I went down to the then named SkyDome to meet them and sign my contract. With the papers in, Kevin walked me down onto the field and it finally sunk in.

MLB reports;  As a 6′ 5″ left-handed pitcher and being the son of an ex-major league hurler, what were the expectations you set for yourself once you joined the Jays system?  Did you envision yourself in the major leagues one day and what was your plan to get there?

Drew Taylor:  Everyone who signs a contract, or for that matter who has played baseball at any level has thought about what it would be like to play in the majors. For me, I had a father who had done it for 11 years, and because of that I had the opportunity to be exposed to the game at a high level from an early age. I fully expected to make the majors and as soon as I signed professionally, I set out to realize that goal. Competition increases as you move up in the system and ultimately I never reached my goal of reaching the majors. There are a lot of talented players in professional baseball, many of the guys in the minors have the talent and ability to play in the majors, but lack consistency. At the major league level you have to be able to make adjustments within the same game or within the same at-bat. Realizing how to make these adjustments takes time and experience, which is one of the reasons athletes in baseball require time to mature and develop above other sports. The mental side of baseball is much more important than the physical… as Yogi Berra said “Ninety percent of baseball is mental, the other half is physical.”

MLB reports:  For all the fans that have never experienced minor league baseball before, give us an idea as to what life is like in the minor leagues as compared to what people see in major league stadiums.  The level of competition, amenities and support from the major league team for its minor league system- what is it like?

Drew Taylor:  Night and day. Have you ever watched Bull Durham? Its bang on. The minors consist of a lot of long bus trips, fast food, and tiny locker rooms. The other big difference that people do not realize is how little money players are paid in the minors. Bonus Babies get a big cheque at the beginning, but the weekly salary is barely enough to live on. I would love to see the Major League Baseball Players Union fight for better pay in the minors, but once you make it to the majors I assume those guys try not to even think about the minors again. I don’t see it happening. Another problem is that players in the US and Canada are entered into the draft, while international players are all free agent signs. This means that home-grown talent can only negotiate with the team that drafted them, while international players have the ability to shop around different teams and drive up their signing bonuses. We need to move to a world-wide draft. One thing I will say is that players who make it to the big leagues know what it is like in the minors because they came up through it. Many guys are very good to the guys at lower levels. Especially if they are back down in the minors for rehab starts. One guy that sticks out in my mind that always looked after the guys at the lower levels was Brandon League. He was down for rehab for a while in Dunedin one year and went out of his way for us.

MLB reports:  Injuries unfortunately played a huge part in your career, as it affects many young hurlers.  Please tell us what happened to you health wise and your path through injuries, surgeries and how health affected your career.

Drew Taylor:  I only threw twice in my junior year at Michigan before it was painfully evident that something was not right. I ended up having a small tear in my rotator cuff and a strained bicep. I rehabbed and came back strong enough to get picked up by the Jays. My velocity had never returned fully after my arm injury in University, so I had to find other ways of getting hitters out than just blowing it by them. Additionally, I moved primarily to the bullpen after being a starter my whole life. My mental approach to baseball improved greatly, learning how to set up hitters and get them out not just by beating them with a pitch, but beating them with a pitch they didn’t expect. Instead of facing the same hitters many times in one game as a starter, I was now coming in relief and mostly only had to face batters once. I had to develop the ability to strike out a batter when I came on with runners on base and I focused on improving out pitches. My first year was in Pulaski Virginia in the Appalachian league facing a lot of young free-swingers. I used this to my advantage and ended up striking out 37 in 27 innings. As you move up through the system, hitters have a much better approach and wait for you to throw a pitch they are looking for or for you to make a mistake. You have to improve with them, or you will get left behind.

MLB reports:  For those fans that aren’t aware, your father is Dr. Ron Taylor. A team doctor for the Jays, your dad was a star pitcher in the big leagues and played on World Championship teams.  What influence did your dad have on your career?  What was your relationship like growing up?

Drew Taylor:  My dad was a huge influence on me. He never pushed me into baseball, or medicine for that matter, they were both my choices.  Once I made the decisions to pursue being a professional pitcher and then a doctor, his support and guidance was bar none. He had a great career in the majors for 11 seasons, winning two World Series with the Cardinals in 1964 and the Amazin’ Mets in 1969. I had a big leaguer at my disposal and he taught me things about playing at a level that very few have made it to. Even when we would sit down and watch a game on TV, we would be talking about setting up hitters and he would always ask me what pitch I would throw next.  The biggest thing he taught me is how to deal with pressure and maintain focus and confidence – something I can take with me in all aspects of life. In 6 appearances in Major League post season games he threw over 10 innings without giving up a run. In 1964 he threw 4 innings in the World Series without giving up a hit, allowing only one base runner on a walk to none other than Mickey Mantle. There definitely were some expectations, and it was very tough to deal with when I had my arm injury and my future in baseball was in question. When I was released by the Phillies in 2008, I came home and he said something that will always stick with me. He told me if he “could only choose one career between baseball and medicine, it would have been medicine.” He has been able to help countless more people as a physician than as a pitcher. If I had kept playing baseball, my window to return to school might have closed. My brother Matthew, has also been a great guy to have around. What he lacked in talent he made up for in knowledge. I still talk shop with him when we watch games and he often comes out to watch me throw, giving me some pointers after the game, whether I want to hear them or not. He works in film, but I always thought he would be great in the front office or as a GM. He knows baseball, better than me.

MLB reports:  To go along with the Jays connection, you mentioned to me that you know Pat Gillick well.  Please tell us your relationship with Pat and the Phillies organization.

Drew Taylor:  After my second season with the Blue Jays, they let me go and I immediately got a call from the Phillies asking me to attend spring training in Clearwater next year. Pat is one of the greatest minds in baseball and has been a mastermind behind winning teams and franchises since he started as a General Manager. He is always at ground level watching his players from rookie ball up to the majors and has a huge presence at camp. When he was with the Blue Jays, he became great friends with our family and recently invited us down to watch the induction ceremony at Cooperstown. It was my first time there and a tremendous experience to see the rich history the sport has and its influence and presence in North America and around the world. Bobby Cox, who was also formerly with the Blue Jays was down at the induction as well and they told me the story of how I ended up being named Drew. My parents were deciding between Forrest or Andrew and Bobby suggested they just call me Drew. I am glad he did. Forrest Gump came out when I was 11… that would have been a rough year…

MLB reports: You currently play for the Toronto Maple Leafs of the Intercounty Baseball League in Ontario, Canada.  Many famous players came through the IBL, most notably John Axford of the Brewers.  For fans that are not familiar with the league, please tell us more about playing baseball in the IBL and the Leafs’ organization.

Drew Taylor:  The Intercounty Baseball League started in 1919 and was founded as a minor baseball league feeding the majors. Now it remains as an independent league. It has a great deal of variety in players and level of experience. Many of the players have had professional experience in affiliated ball and are at the end stages of their career. The rest of the players are comprised of current or former university and college athletes trying to get signed to professional contracts or who want to maintain playing baseball at a high level of competition. Ferguson Jenkins, Paul Spoljaric, Jesse Orosco, John Axford, Pete Orr, Rob Ducey, Rich Butler and Rob Butler are some of the major leaguers that have played in the league either before their major league career or afterwards. I have actually had the chance to pitch head-to-head against Spoljaric on a few occasions and it is always exciting to face off against a former big leaguer. The league has a shorter schedule and we don’t play every day, so it allows guys to maintain full-time jobs while playing, which is rather unique. I have been playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs for the past three years while being a full-time student at the University of Toronto and Mount Sinai Hospital.

MLB reports:   I have read that you have been involved with a number of charity groups surrounding baseball and sports, tell us about that?

Drew Taylor: I have been getting involved in some charities that are doing great work in Toronto and across Canada. I recently participated in Strike Out Cancer in support of Mount Sinai Hospital with an all-star list of actors and hall of famers including Kurt Russell, Roberto Alomar, David Justice, Gary Carter, Gary Sheffield,  Bret Saberhagen, Devon White, and others. This past year the event raised over 1.4 million for research and treatment of women’s cancers. We also participated alongside local athletes, actors, musicians, and personalities in the Bulletproof campaign which sells apparel in support of the Special Olympics. Another fun group of people, Jays Days, get together when the Jays are on the road to watch the game together at Opera Bobs. Proceeds from sales of ball-park hotdogs, popcorn, and refreshments go to Horizons for Youth, a 35 bed youth-shelter dedicated to helping homeless and at-risk youth in Toronto.

MLB reports:  Having attended Michigan and with your father a doctor, a little birdy told me that you were looking at a career in medicine yourself. True or False?

Drew Taylor:  True. I ended up passing on professional baseball out of high school to attend university as I wanted to become a doctor. After finishing my undergraduate and Masters degrees at the University of Michigan, I was signed by the Blue Jays. At the same time I signed I had sent in my application to medical school. I was accepted and had to make a tough decision. I decided that I would have the chance to go to medical school after playing, but only had one opportunity to play professional baseball.  Thus I continued to play ball. I didn’t want to lose any momentum in medicine, so I applied to the University of Toronto and continued graduate school in the off-seasons. While with the Phillies and now playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Intercounty League, I have been completing my PhD. I will finish this year and will be applying to medical school again.

MLB reports:  How many more years to you see yourself playing baseball?  When your playing career is done, do you see yourself staying in the game and in what capacity?

Drew Taylor:  I will continue to play as long as I enjoy the game and my arm holds up. I broke my elbow this past year and it was a long season of rehab before I was back pitching again. I finished the year strong so it rejuvenated my desire to keep pitching. Once it is over for good I would like to stay involved with baseball and sports in general. My PhD is in Biomedical Engineering and ultimately I want to pursue a career in Orthopedic Surgery, possibly even specialize in upper extremity to compliment my experience dealing my own injuries. My dad is the team Physician for the Toronto Blue Jays.  I would love to follow in his footsteps and serve a professional team.

Thank you again to Drew Taylor for taking the time to join us today on MLB reports.  We highly encourage our readers to post at the bottom of the article any questions and/or comments that you may have for Drew.  As well, please follow Drew on Twitter (@DrewWTaylor).

**Some of the photographs in today’s feature are from the private collection of our guest, Drew Taylor. **

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.

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.

 

 

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On the Verge: Brett Lawrie Call Up by Jays is Imminent

Thursday August 4, 2011

 

Rob Bland (Intern- MLB Reports):  The Brett Lawrie rollercoaster started December 6th, 2010.  Lawrie was sent to Toronto in exchange for Toronto’s incumbent ace, Shaun Marcum.  Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos immediately said that Lawrie would be working out at third base, switching from second base.  This would be Lawrie’s third major position change in 3 years.  He was drafted out of Langley, BC by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 1st round (16th overall) of the 2008 MLB draft.  That year, Toronto held the 17th pick, and it was said that they coveted him greatly.  They instead had to settle for college first baseman and current AAA prospect, David Cooper.

Lawrie hit .293 in spring training this year, while playing decent enough third base to warrant a discussion of keeping him on the roster.  However, Anthopoulos deemed he was not ready to play in the Major Leagues, and the fans in Toronto grumbled as the Blue Jays consistently put Edwin Encarnacion at third base to start the year.  Lawrie started off hot in AAA Las Vegas, and played good defense.  This still wasn’t enough, as the Jays asked him to be more patient and change his approach.  Lawrie did just that, and by May 31st, was hitting over .350 with power and walking more often than he had in the past.  When the Jays were on the brink of calling him up (see our Report from June 2nd), Lawrie was hit by an errant pitch on the back of his left hand.  Blue Jays fans collectively held their breath, and Lawrie declared it was a bruise.  Two days later when swelling subsided, it was found out that Lawrie had a non-displaced fracture.

When he finally returned to Las Vegas in the middle of July, Lawrie came right back to where he left off.  He is now hitting .352 with 18 home runs and 61 RBI.  More importantly, he has 26 walks and is playing much improved defense.  Now, the Jays’ faithful are continuing to call for him.  Anthopoulos and manager John Farrell have repeatedly said “he’s close” and that they want to get him everyday at bats before rosters expand in September.

Now, when Lawrie gets the inevitable call (my guess being Friday, August 5th, before the beginning of a road series in Baltimore), where will he play?  The Jays have Jose Bautista, one of the top three players in baseball at third base.  Well, the plan that Anthopoulos has set out is that Bautista would shift back to his preferred right field, creating a logjam of young and talented outfielders.  Travis Snider is 23 years old and he will play every day at one of the corner positions.  Colby Rasmus is 24 years old and will be in center for the foreseeable future.  That leaves Eric Thames, also 24, the corner outfielder who came out of seemingly nowhere to win the love and admiration of many fans, on the bench.  You could say that Thames can just DH because he isn’t the best fielder of the bunch (although more than adequate and constantly improving), but where does Edwin Encarnacion play then?  Encarnacion is one of the hottest hitters in all of baseball since the beginning of July.  He has 9 doubles, 4 home runs, and 14 RBI with 12 walks in 25 games over that span.  Thames most likely gets optioned to AAA to get every day at bats until rosters expand in September.  Here is how that lineup stacks up.

Yunel Escobar – SS
Colby Rasmus – CF
Jose Bautista – RF
Adam Lind – 1B
Edwin Encarnacion – DH
Travis Snider – LF
Brett Lawrie – 3B
J.P. Arencibia – C
Aaron Hill –  2B

If one of these players is traded, then there won’t be a problem.  The only other option barring a trade, is something that Anthopoulos has stated adamantly will not happen.  Moving Lawrie to second base and sitting former Silver Slugger Aaron Hill on the bench.  This could possibly be the best option available for both the short-term and long-term.  With Hill underperforming (ranked 20th out of 21 qualified 2nd baseman in WAR), and his $8M option for 2012 likely to be declined, Lawrie could slot into that spot for a very long time.  Anthopoulos has preached having talent and skill “in the middle of the diamond” and second base is a spot that sorely needs some stability after Hill’s last two years.  The only thing that could stop this movement is if Anthopoulos sees Hill, who is a good defender, as a guy who can turn his career back around.  If Hill were placed in the 9 hole, and changed his approach, he could be a very serviceable player there.  One idea that has been bandied around is that the Jays decline the option on Hill, and sign him to a much smaller deal to bring him back as the second baseman.

I honestly believe that Anthopoulos has the wheels turning, and with Encarnacion being so hot, many teams would love to take him on to make a push for the playoffs.  If Encarnacion is not in the picture, there is a spot for Thames as a full-time player.  He and Snider would probably split time between left field and DH, with Bautista in right, and Lawrie at third.

What gets lost in all of this, is that the Opening Day center fielder, might become a 5th outfielder.  Rajai Davis  has 33 stolen bases, and is playing better in a part-time role since Rasmus joined the team.  He will be reserved to being a pinch runner, and possibly a late inning defensive replacement for Thames.

The odd man out for this year seems to be Thames, even though the Blue Jays see him as a valuable asset for the long-term.  Whether that means for him to be on the field, or using him as a trade chip remains to be seen.  Lawrie will likely end up playing third base every day, proving why the Jays gave up Marcum for an unproven “troubled” prospect. 

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Intern, Rob Bland.  We highly encourge 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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Colby Rasmus and Mark Teahen to Jays, Jason Frasor and Zack Stewart to White Sox, Edwin Jackson and Octavio Dotel to Cardinals

Wednesday July 27, 2011

 

MLB reports:  We first discussed a Colby Rasmus trade to Toronto about a week ago here on the Reports.  The trade as we proposed would have included Rasmus to the Jays and Travis Snider and Jason Frasor to the Cardinals.  It looks like we got half of the players right, as a Rasmus to Jays deal is complete and ready to be announced.  However, in typical Alex Anthopoulos fashion, the trade is a 3-way deal.  Going to the Jays is pitcher Edwin Jackson and Mark Teahen in return for reliever Jason Frasor and pitcher Zack Stewart to the White Sox.  The Jays are then flipping Jackson, outfielder Corey Patterson and relievers Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynskias well as three players to be named later or cash to the Cardinals for Colby Rasmus, relievers P.J. Walters, Brian Tallet and Trever Miller.  From there, Miller may be on the move to the White Sox to complete the Jackson swap.

 

Here is how the trade breaks down team by team:

 

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Kenny Williams can never sit on his hands come trade deadline time.  As hard as he may try, Williams loves to tinker with his team and this year is no different.  Speculation had Williams eyeing Rasmus for himself.  But with the need to maintain a strong bullpen, it appears that the White Sox are adding Frasor while keeping Matt Thornton.  As the Sox are also deep in the rotation and Jackson was essentially redundant for a team that is unlikely to make the playoffs.  Frasor is having a solid year, with a 2.98 ERA and 1.252 WHIP.  The White Sox may choose to hold onto him or let him go and receive compensation as a type “B” free agent.  Teahen, at one more year and $5.5 million left in salary was an expensive backup at best.   Zack Stewart, one of the Jays better pitching prospects, is currently at 24-year old AA starter with a 4.20 ERA and 1.410 WHIP.  Stewart, who came to Toronto in a package for Scott Rolen, showed very solid numbers until this year, with a lifetime 3.05 ERA in his minor league career with a 1.343 WHIP over four seasons.  The White Sox wanted to stock up their system and Stewart should be a bright addition.

VERDICT:  White Sox win their end of the deal.  Although the addition of Colby Rasmus would have been nice, he was likely a luxury that the team could not afford.  The White Sox end up freeing salary, receiving a useful reliever that could turn into a draft pick and a prospect starting pitcher in a system screaming for prospects, in exchange for two spare parts from their team.  They may even get Trever Miller to boot.   

 

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Alex Anthopoulos, the Jays wheeling and dealing GM, is quickly becoming the master of the 3-way trade.  AA’s first big move was trading Roy Halladay as part a of a three-way move with the Phillies and Mariners, with the Oakland A’s joining in shortly after in the Michael Taylor and Brett Wallace swap.  The Houston Astros then traded Roy Oswalt that summer to the Philadelphia Phillies for a package including Anthony Gose, who was then flipped to Toronto for Wallace.  Vernon Wells then this offseason  went to the Angels and a couple of days later the Rangers were involved in the Mike Napoli for Frank Francisco trade.  AA is now back in a big way.  With the MLB non-waiver trade deadline a mere four days away, AA has shocked the slow-moving trade market with the biggest swap of the season.  Toronto parts with Jason Frasor to Chicago along with Zack Stewart and then move recently acquired Edwin Jackson with relievers Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski, as well as outfielder Corey Patterson and three players to be named later or cash  to the Cardinals for Colby Rasmus, as well as relievers P.J. Walters, Brian Tallet and Trever Miller.  Mark Teahen then stays in Toronto from Chicago as a backup infielder.

Breaking down the deal for Toronto, they move three middle relievers in Dotel, Rzepczynski  and Frasor.  Dotel and Frasor could have either stayed in Toronto next year or been type “B” free agents with compensation picks coming back.  Rzepczynski, a former starter has been steady in the Jays pen this season but does not project to be more than a middle reliever.   With the Jays having such strong starting pitching at the majors and minor league levels, Jackson was a pitcher who actually would not have been able to crack the Jays rotation.  Teahen, whose last decent season in the majors was 2007, is another Juan Rivera salary dump pickup for the Jays who could hang around for season or be cut loose with salary eaten.  At the end of the day, the Jays at most have traded away three middle relievers/draft picks, a prospect in Zack Stewart to the White Sox and about $5.5 million in salary to acquire Colby Rasmus.  With the logjam in the outfield, Corey Patterson was expandable.  We are not sure yet who are the three players to be named later but apparently the Jays may move cash to the Cardinals instead.  The three relievers received by the Jays, Walters, Tallet and Miller are all spare parts at best, with Miller apparently on his way to the White Sox.  Tallet though enjoyed his best years in Toronto and a Jays reunion may give his numbers a boost.

How good is Colby Rasmus?  Best prospect in baseball good before getting the call to the majors.  A first round pick of the Cardinals in 2005, the 24-year old Rasmus has not seen eye-to-eye with manager Tony LaRussa for some time and a change of scenery was in order.  Once he realizes his potential, Rasmus has Gold Glove and Silver Slugger potential.  He is really that good.  Under team control for another three seasons, Rasmus gives the Jays the center fielder they have desired for so long and a top of the order bat.  Rasmus will perfectly slide into the second spot of the batting order and give the Jays power, speed and the ability to get on base. 

VERDICT:  If the measure of a trade is by the team receiving the best player available, then the Jays win this trade overall hands down.  They have acquired Colby Rasmus, one of the best young outfielders in the game by giving up essentially middle relievers, a prospect starting pitcher and taking on salary.  While Zack Stewart may develop one day into a solid number 2 or 3 starter, for a team that is filled with pitching prospects, Stewart was an arm that the team could afford to move.  AA could actually get arrested for stealing Rasmus from the Cardinals.  This is what you call buying low at the right time.  The Jays should thank LaRussa for his recent comments that Rasmus was not listening to the Cardinals coaching staff.  Playing for John Farrell, with Jose Bautista as a teammate and Cito Gaston as a Jays advisor, Rasmus should be able to quickly realize his potential in Toronto.  Even with the trade of three of their middle relievers, the Jays are still left with Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch in the pen with more call-ups available at AAA.  With the Jays bullpen blowing saves at an alarming rate this year, moving some of the relievers for a star outfielder is a no-brainer.  This trade will also increase the Heath Bell to Toronto rumors, as the Jays continue to pursue the Padres star closer.

 

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

There aren’t many positives to say here.  The Cardinals if they make this move, would be trading away one of their best players for not so magic beans.  The 27-year old Jackson, while filled with potential has never performed fully to his capabilities at the major league level.  Now on his sixth major league team and eligible for free agency at the end of the season with Scott Boras as his agent, the Cardinals will need to overpay to retain his services.  With a 3.92 ERA and 1.422 WHIP on the season, Jackson is as middle-of-the-road as they come.  The Cardinals are hoping that Dave Duncan can work his magic but with less than half a season left, there may only be so much that their pitching coach can do.  The 37-year old Dotel has also been steady this season, sitting at a 3.68 ERA and solid 1.091 WHIP.  The team will also have an option to bring Dotel back next year.  Rzepczynski at 25-years of age broke out this year with a 2.97 ERA and 1.093 ERA.  He remains under team control for four more seasons.   Good numbers, but not enough in my estimation.  For a player of the caliber of Colby Rasmus, I would have expected the Cardinals to receive a top starter and closer back.  Rather, the Cardinals are esentiallly receiving a number four or five starter and two middle relievers.  For a team in dire need of pitching, I would have expected a much greater return.  Corey Patterson is at best a fourth oufielder for the Cardinals and the trio of relievers they sent to Toronto, Miller, Tallet and Walters are of little consequence.

Verdict:  GM John Mozeliak and manager Tony LaRussa must really dislike Colby Rasmus to be giving him away in this fashion.  After both Rasmus and his dad have spoken out by the team in recent years, the LaRussa comments the other day likely sealed the deal.  As the team likely does not want to face Rasmus as an opponent, a move to the American League makes sense.  One would think that other teams, including the Angels, Orioles, Red Sox, Yankees and Tigers could have offered more.  But it appears that Jays GM Alex Anthopolous was in the right place at the right time and is on the verge of acquiring the Cardinals’ outfielder.  The Cardinals are the big losers in this trade and it is not even close.  In the  event that both Dotel and Jackson are type “B” free agents and leave St. Louis at the end of the season, the Cardinals will be left with two months worth of rental players, a middle reliever and two draft picks as compensation.  That is all they will have to show for trading away one of the best young hitters in the game.  Considering the prospects the Tampa Bay Rays have in their system, if Toronto can pull this swap off, it will be a loss felt in St. Louis for many years to come.

 

 

 

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Brett Lawrie: On the Verge of Joining the Toronto Blue Jays

Thursday June 2, 2011

 

MLB reports:   There is often a misconception in baseball that news and events from north of the border is often ignored.  Around the Rogers Centre, there has been a strong buzz for weeks anticipating the arrival of the Blue Jays top prospect.  At the tender age of 21, Brett Lawrie, the third baseman of the future for the Jays is about to arrive.  But news of Lawrie’s impending promotion has spread beyond the media in Toronto and Las Vegas, the Jays AAA affiliate.  The MLB community is talking, from Seattle to Washington, and Milwaukee to Florida.  Everyone wants to know the same thing:  When is Brett Lawrie getting the call?

Brett Lawrie was originally drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers of the first round of the 2008 draft, going 16th overall.  The team picking next?  Ironically enough, the Toronto Blue Jays.  With the 17th pick, the Jays went with first baseman David Cooper.  The Jays had their eye on Lawrie and were all set to draft the British Columbia native Lawrie.  But with Milwaukee having Canadians Doug Melvin and Gord Ash in its front office, the Brewers with a strong scouting presence in Canada were all over Lawrie.  Milwaukee in 2008 made Lawrie the highest drafted Canadian born position player in major league history and fourth overall, behind Jeff Francis, Adam Loewen and Philippe Aumont.  But the Jays never lost their interest in Lawrie and on December 6, 2010, Lawrie was finally coming home.

Last winter, Lawrie was moved from Milwaukee to Toronto in a straight exchange for Jays ace hurler, Shaun Marcum.  Coming off arm issues and a missed 2009 season, Marcum bounced back during the 2010 season with 13 wins and almost 200 innings pitched.  Now due for arbitration, the Jays capitalized on Marcum’s success to land the player they coveted for some time.  Lawrie immediately moved from 2nd to 3rd and became the Jays third baseman of the future.  But at 21-years of age, Lawrie was still in need of more experience and seasoning.  After a fairly solid AA campaign in Huntsville, Lawrie was expected to repeat AA with the Blue Jays and slowly move to AAA near the end of the year.  But that all changed come spring training.

After a solid spring campaign, there was a buzz around baseball that Lawrie almost made the Blue Jays team in time for opening day.  But with Edwin Encarnacion on the roster, the Jays decided that the major league roster had its stop-gap solution until Lawrie was ready.  Given his strong spring though, the Jays organization reasoned that Lawrie was ready for increased competition and designated him to AAA Las Vegas to start the campaign.  Looking at the numbers, Lawrie has flourished.  Going into today, Lawrie has a .354 AVG, .415 OBP, .677 SLG, 15 home runs, 19 doubles, 49 RBIs, 51 runs, and has been successful on 11/12 stolen base chances.  All of this accomplished in only 52 games played.  Granted, Las Vegas is known as a hitters park and the 51s play in the Pacific Coast League, a notorious slugging league.  Lawrie though has earned his shot and this was week was all set to get the call.  Media outlets reported that Lawrie, together with Adam Lind would be joining the Jays on Friday.  But this past Tuesday night, Lawrie was hit on the hand and everything changed.

The Blue Jays and the collective baseball world held its breath as Lawrie’s left hand was x-rayed.  The results came back negative and fortunately only a bruise.  However, with a deep hand bruise, Lawrie’s promotion has temporarily been placed on hold.  As with all good things in life, the best things come to those that wait.  While surely disappointed at his misfortune, at this point Lawrie just has to come back and prove health in order to make his long-awaited major league debut.

Fantasy baseball players especially have been contacting me to find out my predictions as to how Lawrie will fare when he finally joins the Jays.  My response has been that he will play at third base when given the call and likely stay there for the next decade or so.  But fans of the game have a way of getting excited about MLB prospects, which is great for the game but creates some unrealistic expectations some times on the players.  Looking at Lawrie’s stats, I noticed that he had  47/118 BB/K in 2010 and this year sits at 18/40 BB/K.  Lawrie with a career .294 AVG in the minors clearly has a strong bat.  Now he just has to develop his batting eye.  Coming to the majors, he might be a little slow out of the gate as he gets his feet wet.  A .250-.260 AVG is a realistic prediction at this stage of his career, but may not be enough to satisfy the demands of his loyal followers.  People may expect the world from Lawrie with all the hype surrounding him, but let’s remember that he is still only 21 and maturing as baseball player and person.  Coupled together with his defensive shift from 2nd to 3rd, it has been a season of adjustments for him.  But Lawrie has shown the superstar potential and earned the call to the big leagues.

We will follow this story for you as it develops and continue the Reports as Lawrie is likely to join the Blue Jays next week.  After landing in Toronto, the future for Brett Lawrie is wide open.  He could be here to stay or may need to bounce a little between Toronto and Las Vegas before he establishes himself.  Look no farther than another one time can’t miss Toronto prospect, Travis Snider.  For the last two seasons, Snider made the team out of spring training with high expectations, only to land back in Las Vegas to work on his game.  The baseball world looks forward to the arrival of Brett Lawrie and the next “can’t miss” prospect.  After all the talk and hype, the moment of truth is almost upon us.

 

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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.

 

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TRAVIS SNIDER – FROM PROSPECT TO SUPERSTAR

MLB reports:  What a difference a year makes.  2010 was a season where essentially nothing went right for Travis Snider.  From batting at the bottom of the Jays lineup all year to frequent trips to the disabled list and the minors, the then twenty-two year outfielder was beginning to lose the lustre from his prospect star status.  Rumors of immaturity and attitude haunted the young man, as well as frequent disagreements with then Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston.  Now healthy and part of the newly constructed Toronto team, Travis Snider is ready to take his game to the next level.

In my estimation, no Toronto player will benefit greater from the hiring of John Farrell as manager than Snider.  The previous regime under Gaston was not seen as “rookie friendly” to say the least.  While Snider got off to a quick start last year, he quickly started to fade early on.  In whatever approach Gaston was trying to preach to the kid, clearly it was not working.  From there, spending time in the minors and on the DL has a way of shattering a young player’s confidence.  Remember, Snider a year ago was one of the top hitting prospects in baseball and the future face of the franchise.  Watching his approach at the plate, Snider appeared to be overly aggressive to me.  A common symptom of being a young hitter, few hitters can go up to the plate and wait for their pitch in the manner that Jason Heyward does.  But after two years of less than 300 hundred at-bats and lifetime MLB avg of .255, clearly a change was needed to Snider’s game.  That change has arrived and I saw it last night.

I was expecting to see Snider hitting 8th last night but was pleasantly surprised to see him in the 7th spot.  Although not a huge difference, Farrell had Snider hitting between Encarnacion and Rivera, two veteran hitters who would be able to give him protection in the lineup.  The higher slot in the lineup to me translates to a vote of confidence for the kid.  After some solid games, I expect Snider to move up to #6 and even as high as 5th as the season progresses.  He has that much talent and hopefully the Jays let him showcase his abilities.  However, the biggest change I saw in Snider was his stance and approach at the plate.  Snider finished the night 0-2 with 2 BB and 2 runs scored.  The tone of the night for him was set in his first at-bat, when Travis was able to reach first on an error.  Snider gave a nice little fist pump after reaching base- showing his heart and desire to play the game the right way.  Although not getting credit for a hit, Travis did show great hustle and determination in that at-bat.  The rest of the night for me centered around his new stance.  The “superstar” stance as I call it. 

Dwayne Murphy has clearly invested a great deal of time in working with Snider.  His mechanics and approach at the plate are much better in 2011.  Last year, Snider looked extremely lost at the plate to me.  Last night, Snider showcased his new approach which clearly is starting to work for him.  Snider is taking more pitches and seeing the ball much better.  Both walks he took last night were hard-fought and well-earned.  It appeared to me that Travis watching video of Nick Swisher in the off-season and starting to follow his approach at the plate.  Snider has a nice fluid stroke and in opening his stance, he is able to see pitches better and wait for the right ones.  I expect to see Snider’s walk rate spike and his home run totals proportionately.  My sense is that Farrell and Murphy have much faith in the kid and he will be rewarding them with a solid breakout season in 2011.   

I won’t sit and blame Cito Gaston for all of Travis Snider’s woes in 2010.  Snider has to take responsibility for his own actions and results in the process.  But clearly the relationship between manager and player did not work in that case and a change was needed.  John Farrell has vast experience working with young players, from being a farm director with the Indians to being the pitching coach in Boston.  Farrell to win over Snider will need to play him day-in and day-out.  The greatest mistake that a young player can make is to press too hard early on, afraid that any mistakes could lead to a demotion to the bench or minors.  If Snider is allowed to play through mistakes and slumps, the law of probability will result in success coming through the flip side.  The Travis Snider that I saw on opening night was excited to be a part of the team.  He did not press at the plate and did the little things necessary to contribute to his team’s success.  Watch out for Travis Snider, the next superstar and franchise of the Toronto Blue Jays.

MLB REPORTS FROM FRIDAY APRIL 1ST:

1)  The Toronto Blue Jays got off to a fast start on the season, crushing the Twins 13-3 in the Rogers Centre.  Ricky Romero had an impressive opening day, pitching 6.1 innings, giving up 7 hits, 1 ER and 7 SO.  The key telling stat of the night was 0 walks given up by the young lefty.  Carl Pavano, on the other hand, gave up 7 runs in 4 innings of work.  Looking like the Pavano from the Yankees days, the night was simply brutal for the veteran.  Bautista and Lind had huge games for the Jays but the star of the night was the #9 hitting catcher J.P. Arencebia, going 3-4 with 5 rbis, 2 hr’s and a triple to boot.  For one day at least, the Jays look like the team to beat in the East.

2)  The Phillies squeaked out a close one in Philadelphia in their opener, with Halladay and Myers facing in a strong pitching duel.  Halladay was stellar in the 5-4 Phillies win, with 6 IP, 7 hits, 1 ER, o BB and 6 SO.  Roy is just scary good and its only the start of the season.  In the “closer implosion” series, Brandon Lyon in 1/3 of an inning gave up 6 hits and 3 ER.  Perhaps trading Lidstrom was not the brightest move for the Astros.  Baez finished with the save in this one but only because of the late 9th inning magic by the Phillies bats.  Madson pitching a clean 8th with 2 SO is still the closer at this point.  Rollins and Howard both had 2 hits in the win for the Phillies.

3)  The Pirates played their hearts out in a 6-3 win over the Cubs in Wrigley.  Kevin Correia pitched 6 solid innings, 2 ER, 1 BB and 3 SO.  Dempster on the other hand, gave up 6 ER in his 6.2 IP.  Meek and Hanrahan were lock down in the 8th and 9th for the Pirates, with 2 SO each in their respective innings of work.  For all the closer debates in Pittsburgh, that is a great situation to have.  But if opening day is an indication, Hanrahan is definitely the closer for now.  Any sign of falter though and Meek becomes the new Matt Capps for Pittsburgh.  Neil Walker at 2B and batting second had the game of his life, with a grand slam home run and walk.  McCutchen also homered and looked solid.  Castro had 3 hits in the lone bright spot for the Cubs on this day.

4)  The White Sox beat the Indians in a barn burner in Cleveland, 15-10.  Mark Buehrle had a typical outing, 6 IP, 4 ER, 1 BB and 0 SO.  Fausto Carmona got destroyed to the tune of 10 ER in 3.0 IP to get the worst start line of any pitcher on opening day.  Many players had nice stats lines in a blowout game on this day, with Santana pacing the Indians in the cleanup spot with 3 hits and a home run.  Dunn and Quentin were the beasts for the White Sox, each with a home run, Dunn with 4 ribbies and Quentin with 5.

5)  The Rangers won their opener, 9-5 against the Red Sox.  C.J. Wilson solidified his ace status with the win, giving up 2 ER in 6.2 IP and 6 SO.  Jon Lester did not have it on this day, giving up 5 ER in 5.1 IP.  The Rangers had 3 bombs, with Mike Napoli (see my article on him earlier in the offseason) leading the way with 2 hits, 3 rbis and a walk.  Crawford was hitless in his Red Sox debut and Adrian Gonzalez had 2 hits and 3 rbis.

6)  The Diamondbacks won a wild one in Coors, beating the Rockies 7-6.  Ubaldo was off tonight, giving up 5 ER in 6.0 IP.  Not what Rockies fans expected from their ace.   J.J. Putz had a clean save in the win, 1.0 IP and 2 SO.  Upton and Montero had nice games for the winners with a home run apiece.

7)  In the upset of the night, the Orioles stunned the Rays 4-1 in Tampa.  David Price, despite giving up only 5 hits and 1 BB in 7.0 IP with 7 SO gave up all 4 runs.  Guthrie shut out the Rays during his 8.0 IP, giving up only 3 hits and 1 BB.  With only 5 hits on the night, the Orioles were able to beat David Price even when he was on his game…signs that the AL East will be as tough as many expect in 2011.

8)  The New York Mets began their dismissal season with a 6-2 loss to the Marlins. Josh Johnson was unhittable early on and finished with 6.0 IP, 2 ER, 3 hits and 2 BB allowed.  The stars of the night for the Marlins were Logan Morrison and John Buck, both with a home run (Buck with the grand slam).  Gaby Sanchez also had 2 hits for the strong Marlins opening game. 

9)  In the final opening game of the season, King Felix had the season’s only complete game to-date in the Mariners 6-2 win.  Felix gave up 2 ER, 5 hits and 0 BB in 108 pitches thrown, with 5 SO.  The AL West has been put on notice.  Willingham in the cleanup spot had a home run for the A’s while the light-hitting Chone Figgins countered with a jack of his own for the M’s.  With every team getting a game into the record books, opening day is now complete!

 

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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