Sunday, August 29, 2010

Some Early Thoughts on 2011

Morrow has done an awesome job the last few starts, has the best stuff on the staff, and will likely surfact as our #1 starter next year. However, he needs to learn as Halladay did, that you don't have to strike everybody out. He is having quality starts but lasting 6 or 7 innings because he throws too many pitches. Now I'm not complaining, nor is 6 or 7 IP giving up 1 or 2 earned runs and striking out 8-10 bad. But instead of striking out 12 he would be better to make the hitters put the ball in play more, trust your defense and save some pitches and wear and tear on the arm while going deeper into games. That means on occasion finishing a game as well to save your bullpen. Halladay learned over time it isn't about the glamor stats, it's about wins and going deep into games. Perhaps Morrow will learn this over time. In the meantime you can see him gaining confidence as Romero did last year. I believe next year he'll come out of spring like gangbusters trusting his stuff and likely get 15 wins. In fact all 4 starters are capable of 15 wins.

With 38 games left, each starter has 6-7 starts left. Though they have a tough schedule, it is possible with some luck that 1 or 2 of the guys could hit 14-15 wins. Marcum has the best chance with 11 wins already, but as you know sometimes these guys go on a tear of strong starts or games where the team scores a lot of runs for them, so it is possible.

At the beginning of the year I predicted a .500 year for the Jays with this anticipated number of wins from the starters to get them there:

Marcum and Romero - 30 wins
Other starters - 30 wins
Bullpen - 21 wins

So far - Marcum and Romero - 21 wins
Other starters - 26 wins (this includes 19 from Cecil and Morrow plus those from Tallet, Litsch, Eveland, Rzep, Mills) Bullpen - 18 wins (with 14 blown saves - this is normal but could have turned into a few more wins for starters)

Forecast to end of season:
Starters have won 38% of games, at the same pace, with 38 games left they should win 14 more games which would make their final total exactly 61. Scary..............

At their same winning % they would finish 85-77 which would be a great year considering the expectations from everyone including team management. From that standpoint Cito has done an awesome job and set them up for a more impressive future. Obviously, the right manager to take them over the hump to the next level to compete with the Rays and Yanks is of paramount importance.

Questions for next year

1. Who plays first?

I don't believe Lind is the answer. His glove is unproven yet he hasn't performed nearly as well this year as full time DH. Like a lot of guys, he might do better if he has a full-time position and played 1B in college. They'll likely give him every chance as he has no other position options and needs to hit better if he's going to be full time DH.

Jays traded for Mike Jacobs from the Mets who didn't cost much, is still under 30 and has performed previously at the big league level. Could he be another Bautista?

David Cooper has started to put it together the second half at New Hampshire. He still doesn't hit for average and walks too little but HR and RBI totals improved and he plays decent defense. He'll get a shot to show what he can do in the spring.

Overbay has indicated he would like to come back and he could as a last resort. Great defense but as Ken Rosenthal put it in one article, the fact that he doesn't scare pitchers is a tell tale sign he's likely done.

Free agents - nobody coming available who would fit the Jays other than Adam Dunn and he's going to be pursued by lots of teams and wants a boat load of money.

2. Who returns from the pen?

Free agents include Downs, Frasor, Camp, Tallet

Tallet is non-tendered and Frasor and Downs will be offered a contract due to their Type A status meaning draft choices if they sign elsewhere. Camp has had a great year and is a solid, if unspectacular reliever and will be offered arbritration. Janssen and Purcey have been solid. I believe Carlson and Roenicke (who throws smoke) will be back. Accardo will make too much money and he is looking to change organizations to get another opportunity at a big league bullpen. Gregg's option will be picked up as he's performed well this year and we have no other options at closer.

I don't know how the team will be able to keep Drabek off the team if he has a decent spring so he likely is the 5th starter. Not room for all of Litsch, Rzep, Richmond, Shawn Hill, Reyes and maybe McGowan so I see some potential deals being made trading pitching for hitting or prospects.

3. Third base?

Encarnacion will be non-tendered.

Some good free agent options who could garner interest from AA. This might be the one spot he spends some dough as payroll will be down next year. B.J. Ryan's $10 million finally comes off the books.

Alternatively, there is Hoffpauir and Emaus at Las Vegas who are capable of playing third. Not as much power as the Jays would like but better defense and average. Shawn Bowman has had a decent year at 3B and has a good glove. I'm sure he'll get an invitation to spring training and a chance to show what he can do. Everyone wants to see Bautista remain in RF.

4. What about Hill and Lind?

Let's hope this year was an aberration. I just think they're swinging at bad pitches and need to be more selective. They strike out too much and need to hit more defensively with 2 strikes. It's only my opinion, but they have to do better for this team to rise in the standings.

5. Outfield?

Snider, Wells, Bautista, Lewis looks pretty good to me. Snider continues to look more confident at the plate each year but needs to put it together even if he is still young. It took Lind and Hill 2-3 years so it's Snider's time. Lewis could play regularly and we could use his speed at the top of the lineup but where do you put him? If Bautista isn't a one year wonder we look great defensively in the outfield. If only Vernon could lay off the high pitches. He is what he is and with his contract is going nowhere.

6. Catcher?

They'll re-sign Molina and Arencibia will get his shot.

Buck will be tendered a contract but will go for a multi-year deal after a great year. He'll sign somewhere and Jays will get a draft pick (Type B)

By the way, Brian Jerolman who has always had major league ready defense, is having a great year. Not a huge power guy but his OBP is awesome and his average up. I hope the Jays protect him as I see a perfect 1-2 punch with him and Arencibia in 2012.

7. Rookies - possible break through?

We know about Drabek and Stewart. I predict Drabek will make the team out of spring and Stewar could be a 2nd half addition as he continues to fine-tune his stuff.

Magnuson, Farquahar having good years at New Hampshire and could be breakout candidates to make the Jays. Watch out for Alan Farina, great fastball and was a closer in college. Has fought injuries over last couple of years but finally at double A and perform well. 13 IP 5H 8BB 20K

Cooper at 1B I mentioned.

Shawn Bowman having a great year at 3B - 22 homers and 69 RBI, plays great defense. With our need at third he could get a shot if he has a strong spring.

OF Eric Thames is going to have a 30 HR and 100 RBI year. Likely going to AAA but you never know.

OF Chris Lubanski, former 1st round pick of KC at Las Vegas hitting over .300 with power. Could he be a candidate at DH?

SP Chad Jenkins, our 1st rounder in 2009 is having a rough first year at Lansing an Dunedin. However, he has great stuff and with a strong start next year could be knocking on the door the second half.

SP Deck Maguire - scouts of said he could start at double A. He'll likely start at Dunedin then be move to double A after 8-10 successful starts. This means that if he performs well there he could also be a candidate for the big team in the second half.

Preliminary prediction for 2011

Buck, Downs, Frasor, all sign elsewhere. Jays get 5 compensation picks.

Our starters will be more mature and with the addition of Drabek there will be no weak spots. We'll have better replacements in case of the inevitable injuries and lots of depth. Starting staff will be one of the best in the league. Someone will win 18-20 games and become a Cy Young candidate. (my bet is on Cecil). Staff ERA between 3.50 and 3.75.

Some new faces in the bullpen - lefties Purcey, Carlson, Rzep, righties Janssen, Camp, Roenicke less maturity but better stuff. Expect more ups and downs from the pen. Setup man will have to emerge. Gregg another solid year at closer.

Lind and Hill have bounce back years.

Snider breaks out and hits 20 homers, 80 RBI

Bautista comes back to earth but hits 25 HR and 100 RBI

Wells has similar year - 25 HR, 80 RBI

Replacements at 3B (??), DH (??), C (Arencibia)

Offense doesn't hit nearly as many homers and will have to manufacture more runs. Partially made up by return years from Hill and Lind.

Drabek makes his appearance

A breakout year comes from unexpected rookie who forces his way onto the team or emerges due to injuries. My favorites are David Cooper at 1B or Shawn Bowman at 3B.

AA makes another deal of the Escobar type, perhaps for a 3B. Teams that need pitching who have position players to trade - Milwaukee (badly), Marlins, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh (badly)

Jays draft more position players in 2011

Record of 92-70 puts pressure on Tampa, Boston, Yankees but falls just short of playoff spot.

More Thoughts on Our Drafted Pitchers

Word is that Jays 4th round choice this year Sam Dyson may be a better pitching talent than their 1st rounder Deck Maguire. He dropped that low because of a history of injuries but you know how that goes. Once he gets healthy he can focus on putting his stuff together. Jays got 3 pitchers - Maguire, Dyson, Wochiekowski who could all move quickly and be ready for the SHOW in a couple of years. One scout has indicated that Maguire is possibly capable of handling double A right out of the gate but that the Jays will move him slower due to their pitching depth at the big league level. The 7th overall pick, Matt Harvey (similar abilities to Maguire) was selected by the Mets and because of their need for pitching and they've announced Harvey will start next year at double A.

All in all they've had a great year and exceeded expectations. AA has put together a new philosophy and foundation for a strong future. They could surprise a lot of people even next year depending on who the position players end of being. But certainly a couple of years from now they should be competing with the Rays, Red Sox and Yankees. What a division!

With all the concern over dropping attendance and lack of interest in an exciting Jays team, I can't believe Rogers would pull such a stunt with his new network TV arrangements. Money talks and they have the leverage. You would think they would want to encourage as many Jays viewers as possible who once interest developed would turn into ticket purchasers.

Jays Updates - August 30

It’s looking more and more like Rzep may not have fully recovered from that broken finger. If you recall, he pitched great in the spring and looked like he would break camp with the Jays until he got hit by a ball. He doesn’t have the stuff to overpower guys and needs to pitch to contact and keep the ball in play. Walks will be his downfall. Still looks like a serviceable pitcher though likely not as a starter with the Jays. He could end up fighting with Purcey for Downs spot as the setup man.

After Drabek threw another 5 innings yesterday of 1 hit ball with 5 SO and with an ERA under 3.0 he has got to be a favorite to open the season as the 5th starter with the Jays next year. I read one scout that said Drabek pitched mean……..meaning he has the killer instinct. I don’t know how they’ll keep him off the team. David Cooper hit another homer yesterday and now has 20. His average up about 30-40 points in the last 2 months. Apparently he needed some maturing and perhaps can see the light of opportunity with Wallace gone, Overbay not expected to be back and Lind’s glove uncertain at first. He could be that sleeper I talked about who comes out of nowhere to make the team or it could be 3B Shawn Bowman who also has had a solid year at New Hampshire.

Hechevarria has had a solid 2nd half and looks like he may only need another year to be ready. Look out for Alan Farina who has been doing some closing the last few games. Now has ERA of 1.65 with 24 SO in 16 innings. Uviedo who was the guy they got from Pittsburgh for Eveland has had a better 2nd half. 76 IP only 64 H and 89 SO though his ERA is over 4.0. He’s another future bullpen candidate. Pitching, pitching and more pitching coming……………got to love it!

More talk today about moving the AAA team from Las Vegas. The agreement is up and other teams in similar situations also want to move their affiliates, though the locales aren’t great from a geography standpoint for the Jays. What they want to get away from is the high altitude ballparks in the Pacific Coast League where you can’t trust the numbers guys produce. It can also be demoralizing for pitchers. I think they’d prefer to be in the International League again.

Kevin Ahrens hit another homer at Lansing yesterday. Now has 8 HR and average up to .266. A full season translates to 15-20 homers and 70 RBI’s which is not a bad year. Perhaps he’s found his stroke now that he’s given up switch hitting and gotten his career back on track. Still only 21, if he can start the season at Dunedin and produce the same, he could end up in AA ball before year end and be on track as our future 3B as expected when drafted. The same can’t be said for Justin Jackson who just appears lost. He’s only hitting .250 with no power and 18 errors……….yikes! He’s spent much of the year playing 2B. He’s going to need to make a statement at the beginning of the year or he could be looking at being released. Too many other players in the system are passing him by.