Category Archives: Roster

Potential Platoon Partners for Adam Lind – Pick Your Poison

Although the Jays’ roster pretty much set for the 2013 season, there remains the need for a right-handed bat to partner with Adam Lind to prevent him from flailing helplessly against left-handed pitchers. Rajai Davis may wind up as Lind’s platoon partner since he’s hit lefties well during his career, but ideally the Jays would like to keep him on the bench to be used as a pinch runner/4th outfielder.

However, considering the Jays’ massive increase in payroll for 2013 after years of running on a constrained budget and ‘if you come, we will build it’ talk from Paul Beeston, Alex Anthopoulos might not have a lot of extra money with which to work. In the wake of the R.A. Dickey trade, AA revealed that the Jays needed to jettison John Buck‘s $6M salary in order to take on more salary. This likely means that as it stands, he will need to find the Jays’ 25th man for close to the league minimum.

Internal Options:

vs LHP as RHB 31 30 12 2 0 2 4 0 0 1 8 .400 .419 .667 1.086 .500

Provided by Baseball-Reference.comView Original Table

Internally, the Jays also have a few options in some of their recent minor league free agent signings but the best of those is probably Russ Canzler, the 2011 International League (AAA) MVP. Canzler has hit well against LHP in limited MLB plate appearances over two years. Over the last two seasons in the minors, the 26-year old 1B/OF has hit .299/.370/.496 in AAA in 303 PAs. However, there have already been 3 teams that have given up on Canzler including the Cubs, Rays and Indians. Based on this, the odds that Canzler is a AAAA player that will never quite put it together at the highest level are fairly high.

Free Agents:

Though the Jays might not have the payroll space to sign even a modestly-priced free agent at the moment, it could open up if Darren Oliver decides to retire and the Jays decide that they’re satisfied going into the season with Aaron Loup on the MLB roster and Evan Crawford as the next lefty in line. Loup was dominant for the Jays in 2012, but only in a very limited sample size. Considering the lofty expectations of the team, Anthopoulos may be hesitant to go into the season with such little left-handed pitching depth. However, if he believes in Loup going forward, it could free up some cash to go after a quality platoon partner for Adam Lind in free agency.

vs RHP as RHB 201 185 43 10 0 3 27 1 1 9 23 .232 .269 .335 .604 .244
vs LHP as RHB 138 127 33 4 0 6 20 0 2 9 12 .260 .312 .433 .745 .245
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 12/30/2012.

The Jays’ much-maligned former left-fielder that arrived in the Vernon Wells trade and purchased in July, 2011 by the Dodgers could actually fit the Jays’ needs if he’s willing to accept a reduced role on a contender for less money. Rivera would likely be cheaper than any of the other free agent options outlined here because he’s coming off his second straight down season. Despite his struggles overall, he’s actually been rather decent the last two years against left-handed pitchers especially when you consider his BABIP was well below his career average and he played his home games in a pitcher’s park. His OPS was 80 points higher away from the Dodgers’ pitchers’ park and a return to hitter-friendly Rogers Centre would likely treat him a little better than in his first tour of duty there.

With the the return of Carl Crawford from injury, the Dodgers have little use for Rivera and there has been little interest in him from other teams. If he were given a minor league contract with incentives based on MLB plate appearances, the Jays could gain a productive player at a bargain basement price if he bounces back anywhere near his career production.

vs RHP as RHB 419 392 97 15 0 11 48 0 2 16 79 .247 .279 .370 .649 .278
vs LHP as RHB 189 182 56 12 1 7 26 0 0 4 33 .308 .333 .500 .833 .345
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 12/30/2012.

Everybody’s favourite anti-Semitic former 1st overall draft pick, Delmon Young, should also be available on the cheap this offseason. Though fuelled in part by a .345 BABIP against left-handed pitchers, Young managed yet another .800+ OPS in 2012 against LHPs. Considering his off-field issues, horrible outfield defence and an inability to hit right-handed pitchers with any kind of authority, Young is another candidate to fill the Jays’ need for a right-handed bat.

Some people believe that his off-field issues could disrupt a good thing in the clubhouse, the Detroit Tigers seemed to do just fine with him on the team. If Young fails to secure a full-time contract from a good team, he may consider trying to re-establish his value on a one-year deal with a team like the Jays who would use him primarily in favourable situations.

vs RHP as LHB 191 158 38 5 1 8 24 0 0 24 30 .241 .361 .437 .798 .246
vs LHP as LHB 72 61 12 1 1 4 10 0 0 8 17 .197 .306 .443 .748 .195
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 12/30/2012.
Though he’s left-handed and not an ideal partner for Adam Lind, Travis Hafner, if healthy (and that’s a huge if), could potentially replace Adam Lind when who’s last guaranteed year is 2013. In his career, Hafner has absolutely destroyed right-handed pitching for an OPS of .925. Against left-handers, Hafner has still been quite effective with an OPS of .805. However, he hasn’t played anything close to a full season since 2007 at age 30 and has played more 94 games just once since then.
When he’s in the lineup, Hafner has proven he can be a big-time contributor. If the Jays could sign him to an incentive-laden contract and he managed to remain relatively healthy, he has the potential to be the free agent signing that provides the greatest surplus value. Considering he’s only been to the playoffs once with Cleveland in the last decade, Hafner may be itching to sign on with a team like the Jays for a discount in order to make a run at an elusive World Series ring.

Trade Candidates:

vs RHP as RHB 466 430 113 27 2 24 83 5 2 29 113 .263 .315 .502 .818 .302
vs LHP as RHB 149 131 34 6 0 8 25 1 0 15 40 .260 .342 .489 .831 .310
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 12/30/2012.
It’s been rumoured for a while now that the Chicago Cubs were looking to move former All-Star turned overpriced left-fielder Anfonso Soriano and that they would be willing to eat most of his remaining $36M in order to bring back a legitimate prospect in any trade. Soriano does not have the pronounced splits that Delmon Young or Juan Rivera possess but the Cubs are still willing to part with him in order to build their future.
It would likely take a prospect like Aaron Sanchez or Roberto Osuna to make a deal happen with so much salary being eaten by the Cubs. A larger package of prospects that are either further away like DJ Davis, Matthew Smoral or Chase DeJong or have a lower ceiling/are closer like John Stilson, Sean Nolin, or injured starters Kyle Drabek/Drew Hutchison might appeal to the Cubs as well, but they would probably prefer one of the Jays’ blue-chip pitching prospects.
In the end, the Jays may choose to roll with one of the cheap internal options to partner Adam Lind. If Oliver doesn’t retire and there are no other moves to shed salary, it’s unlikely that the Jays would add a MLB veteran. However, if they do possess a little extra cash, AA may take a long, hard look at the aforementioned names in an effort to push this team over the top. After all, it could mean the difference between being an also-ran in the style of the 2012 Los Angeles Angels and a division winner.
Is there anyone else you’d like to see in the DH slot for the Blue Jays in 2013?

The Quest for the Jays’ 25th Man

With the major acquisitions of the offseason seemingly complete, the Blue Jays must now figure out where everything fits for the upcoming 2013 season. With the rotation locked in and the bullpen’s pieces likely already in place, the Jays must decide upon another player to round out its bench which currently consists of Rajai Davis, Emilio Bonifacio and Josh Thole.

Starting Pitchers
RA Dickey
Josh Johnson
Brandon Morrow
Mark Buehrle
Ricky Romero

J.A. Happ
Brad Lincoln
Brett Cecil
Darren Oliver
Steve Delabar
Sergio Santos
Casey Janssen

Position Players
J.P. Arencibia
Edwin Encarnacion
Maicer Izturis
Brett Lawrie
Jose Reyes
Melky Cabrera
Colby Rasmus
Jose Bautista
Adam Lind
Rajai Davis
Emilio Bonifacio
Josh Thole

40-Man Depth (Starters)
Chad Jenkins

40-Man Depth (Relievers)
Aaron Loup
Jeremy Jeffress
Esmil Rogers
Evan Crawford
Sam Dyson

Injured Pitchers

Dustin McGowan
Drew Hutchison
Luis Perez
Kyle Drabek

40-Man Depth
Anthony Gose
Moises Sierra
A.J. Jimenez
David Cooper
Ryan Goins

Here is an updated 25/40-Man Roster for the Toronto Blue Jays: Google Drive

At times, the 2012 Blue Jays resorted to the use of the 8-man pen, but presumably those days are over with the improvements made to the rotation. Still, there are a number of interesting options in Esmil Rogers and Jeremy Jeffress who are both out of options and would need to clear waivers in order to be assigned to AAA Buffalo. If AA truly believes that one of the two will be an effective MLB reliever, then he may decide with the flexibility that the Jays have in their lineup to carry them as the 8th man in the pen. Though one of them may already be line for a job in the bullpen if Darren Oliver retires, the team might be more inclined to replace him with another LHP, specifically Aaron Loup.

The Candidates:

Position Players:

Considering his removal from the 40-man roster and the vast improvements made to the team, Mike McCoy no longer seems like a remotely reasonable option and fellow AAAA super-sub Yan Gomes is no longer with the organization. Considering the flexibility in the team having Maicer Izturis who is capable of playing 2B, 3B and SS and Emilio Bonifacio capable of playing all the outfield positions plus 2B, there is a lot of flexibility in the lineup that should allow John Gibbons to adjust easily to injuries.Having Bonifacio/Izturis available allows Gibbons to give anyone on the infield the day off including Izturis who could give way to Bonifacio.

Similarly, Rajai Davis and Bonifacio could give anyone in the outfield the day off, though they’d likely be more hesitant to use either in CF. The next options in line for the OF are Anthony Gose and Moises Sierra who would likely benefit more from full-time at bats in Buffalo than sitting on the Jays’ bench. However, if an opportunity opened up because of injury or under performance, then Gose would certainly be given strong consideration to take over in CF for the Jays full time.

Adam Lind could definitely use a platoon partner to remove him from the lineup vs. LHP, but the team has already that it could use Rajai Davis in that role who hit them for a .285/.345/.437 line in 2012. When you consider his speed on the basepaths, Davis is more than adequate in a platoon role. If he falters in 2013, it would not be too difficult for AA to find another right-handed platoon partner.


With the rotation now solidified barring injury, only the bullpen remains in flux based mostly on the indecision of Darren “Black Magic” Oliver. This article presupposes that he will choose to return for one more season and he’s just being dramatic. Casey Janssen, Sergio Santos, Darren Oliver and Steve Delabar seem like locks for mid-to-late inning relief work, though the latter may not have put together a sufficient track record to warrant ‘lock status’ yet. Sergio Santos must also return from his shoulder issues the same pitcher that possessed the best out pitch in baseball in 2011.

Beyond the core, there is a number of intriguing options. Brett Cecil is out-of-options and seems an almost certainty to be with the team as a reliever. He had an uptick in velocity and performance after returning to the Jays as a reliever and he may find himself filling the role that Aaron Loup did in 2012 as a lefty specialist who got more work against right-handed batters as he proved himself capable. Brad Lincoln has an option remaining but seems well-positioned for a role as a middle reliever with the possibility of moving later in the game as roster changes dictate.

With the acquisition of R.A. Dickey, the Blue Jays also drastically improved their bullpen by pushing J.A. Happ into the swingman role. Considering he was a more than serviceable starter as recently as last year, Happ may win the title of Best Swingman in the Biz in 2013. It seems very unlikely that the Jays would choose to keep Happ stretched out in AAA rather than utilize him in the swingman position but perhaps with the quality of the rotation, they don’t believe he’d get enough work to keep him fresh and efficient.

It’s possible, but certainly unlikely, that the Jays would choose to option Happ and keep one of their acquisitions in Esmil Rogers (who cost the Jays Mike Aviles and Yan Gomes in trade) or Jeremy Jeffress (who was acquired for cash considerations). They could also re-sign one of Jason Frasor or Brandon Lyon if they prefer to have more experienced arms relieving the vastly improved rotation. This is after all a frontrunning team and not a Wild Card pretender anymore.

Another candidate for the bullpen is sidewinder Aaron Loup who pitched quite effectively in 2012 for the Blue Jays after his surprise call-up. Because of his available options, Loup is most likely to find himself in the minors at least to start 2013. If Oliver were to retire, the Jays would likely give more consideration to bringing Loup back in order to retain a late-inning left-handed reliever.

Personally, I think the Jays will find that a strong bullpen will not be such a glaring need as it has been in years past because of the upgrades made to the rotation. I can’t foresee the need for an 8-man pen anytime soon barring some short-term exceptional need. As for position players, Anthony Gose is the closest to making a contribution at the MLB-level but could have his development hurt by irregular playing time. If the Jays were to carry a position player already in the system as their 25th man, then I would lean towards Moises Sierra who lacks the ceiling to make irregular playing time too much of a concern. He possesses a strong arm from the outfield, is quick (but, at times,stupid) on the bases, and has some of the best raw power in the system. Perhaps MLB-coaching could unlock that potential which has not been fully converted to game play.

Who do you have penciled in as your 25th Blue Jay?

Jays, Dickey reportedly agree to an extension

The Toronto Blue Jays have come to an agreement on an extension with the reigning NL Cy Young-winner for a reported 2 years and $25M ($1M less than his reported demands from the New York Mets) after the Jays were given a 72-hour window in which to negotiate with Dickey after agreeing to a trade that would send top prospects catcher Travis d’Arnaud, RHP Noah Syndergaard, John Buck and Mystery Prospect A for R.A. Dickey, Josh Thole, and Mystery Prospect B.

If the terms as reported are correct, then the deal represents a nice “F— You” to the Mets (and the New York media) after he was dragged through the mud following Dickey’s comments at a Mets’ team party. Good on him. He was probably asking for less than what’s fair and put his money where his mouth was when it came down to it.


The Plan Comes to Fruition – AA Adds the Finishing Touch

The Plan:

Phase 1: Blow It Up

Well this is the moment Jays fans have all been waiting for… The Plan has come to fruition.

Ever since taking over the reins of the Toronto Blue Jays, Alex Anthopoulos has been building his team towards a period of sustainable contention that would see the team contend year after year in the AL East. At first, he needed to dismantle the team in order to replenish the team’s prospects and build a core of young, controllable and talented players around which to build the team. Anthopoulos traded resident Ace Roy Halladay to the Phillies for Travis d’Arnaud, Kyle Drabek and Michael Taylor (who magically became Anthony Gose in a series of prospect deals). A year later, Shaun Marcum was traded to the Brewers for young infielder Brett Lawrie. Vernon Wells was moved in a miraculous turn of fate because of the foolishness of AA’s counterpart but the deal was an incredible boost to the team’s rebuild.

Phase 2: Build a Strong Foundation

At the same time that he was trading the team’s marketable MLB pieces, Anthopoulos was stockpiling talent in the minors by taking advantage of draft pick compensation for free agents. However, there would never be enough room on the Major League roster for all of the high-ceiling talent in the system if they reached their potential and the assumption was always that the team could/would move their wealth of prospects when the time was right to supplement the core that AA was building.

Sped along by the unexpected emergence of both Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, the Jays possessed a core that also included Brett Lawrie, Brandon Morrow and, until recent failures called their future role with the team into question, Ricky Romero and Colby Rasmus. AA was in a difficult position. Bautista and Encarnacion were both old enough that they would likely be well into their decline when the team’s best pitching prospects, the Lansing 3, reached the Majors. They were still at least 2 years from debuting for the Jays.

Phase 3: Build the Palace

With a solid core in place signed to extensions or otherwise under team control for the next 3+ years, the team was positioned to make a splash with more expensive players through free agency/trade. However, the team had been hard-pressed to attract impact players in the past via free agency to a team viewed as an outside shot at contention in the stacked AL East. Though the division had gotten weaker with Boston’s dismantling, the Jays were come off a disappointing season which had raised a lot of question marks. AA needed to make a bold trade that would alter the image of the team and signal to the baseball world that the team had arrived.

The Marlins trade was the master stroke needed that moved expendable pieces from the MLB roster and prospects from positions of plenty to acquire premium/elite talent capable of performing at a high level immediately and for the foreseeable future. Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle gave the Jays a top 4 that was easily one of the best in the AL certainly with the potential to be the best if Romero bounced back, Morrow stayed healthy and the incoming ex-Marlins adjusted well to life in the AL East. Acquiring elite SS Jose Reyes for Yunel Escobar and Adeiny Hechavarria signaled the team’s shift away from the team’s focus on stockpiling young, controllable talent towards the acquisition of the elite performers getting paid market value.

The Marlins trade put baseball on notice that the Blue Jays were ready to compete seriously for their division and the World Series. It allowed the team to pick up All-Star MVP and PED-influenced Melky Cabrera for what a consensus believes to be a very team friendly 2 year deal worth $16M.

At this point, the team had expanded its payroll by $~30M since the end of the season far exceeding a level expected by people around baseball including Josh Johnson‘s agent who believed some of the salary could be flipped in separate deals. However, the people most surprised by these moves were people who had not been watching the Jays closely for the last 3+ years and hanging off of every hidden hint of future spending by Beeston/AA.

Dedicated observers were typically not surprised by the fact that the Jays had completed a monstrous franchise-altering trade, but more by the players they’d be acquiring and the team that was moving them. Nobody expected the Jays to be able to acquire a legitimate #2 starter, a durable inning-eating mid-rotation starter and an All-Star SS in one fell swoop. Acquiring one of the best free agent outfielders for peanuts was a product of the Miami deal and almost certainly would never have happened had the Jays stood pat.

With the Miami trade and the Cabrera signing, AA had positioned the Jays to compete for the AL East if enough of the team’s question marks (bounce back from Romero, injury concerns for Morrow/Johnson/Bautista/everyone on the team come to think of it) were answered positively. Barring a historic season of injuries/underperformance, the Jays were also positioned to compete for one of the Wild Card spots with the Angels/Rangers/Yankees/Rays/A’s of the world.

However, as the Angels/Dodgers made splashes with the biggest names, the Jays’ rivals seemed to be treading water. Boston signing expensive, aging players in Ryan Dempster, Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli. They cannot be projected as anything but a last place team as the roster stands. The Yankees re-signed old veterans Andy Pettitte, Ichiro Suzuki and Hiroki Kuroda and picked up Boston re-tread Kevin Youkilis, but lost their starting catcher in Russell Martin and learned they would be without Alex Rodriguez until after the All-Star break. The Rays traded their second-best pitcher and a perennial 200+ innings and Wade Davis, a valuable bullpen piece, to the Royals in exchange for blue chip prospect Wil Myers and a haul of pitching prizes including Jake Odorizzi. They managed to acquire Yunel Escobar to play SS for them which could be a huge coup if he bounces back to his production of 2011. The Orioles, playoff team of the negative run differential, were rumoured to be active but had come up empty handed.

Though Baltimore certainly has talent on its team, there is nobody projecting them to repeat their success from the 2012 season. While the Rays might have gotten better in the long-term, they certainly took a step back by losing a main cog from their rotation. They have plenty of depth in their pitching staff, but their youth cannot be expected to immediately replace the production provided by James Shields. The Yankees got a year older but not in a good way as they’re team is mostly on the wrong side of 30. Though the Red Sox had cleared a tonne of salary, they were unable to replace the players departed for the Dodgers with exciting, elite players on the free agent market (they wound up in LA as well).

Phase 5: The Finishing Touches

Like no other time in the last 20 years, the Blue Jays were in a position where one or two more pieces could make them the undisputed front runners for the AL East. Incremental improvements made to the team at this point drastically improved the team’s chances to win its first division title since the glory days of the late 80s/early 90s.

What was the point of building a 90-win team and squeaking into a one game Wild Card appearance when the AL East division title was seemingly ripe for the taking? Spending another $10 M per season seems like a lot coming from years of lean budgets, but that was the point of all that wasn’t it? To be in a position where the team would be able to spend in order to make a run at the playoffs and the World Series. Flags Fly Forever.

Replacing the serviceable, but at time hapless J.A. Happ in the rotation with R.A. Dickey, the reigning NL Cy Young-winner coming off a 5.6 rWAR season is a slam dunk. Not only does it give the Jays one of the best rotations in baseball, it also significantly improves the bullpen where J.A. Happ instantly becomes one of the best swingmen in the business and Brett Cecil into one of the best lefty specialists. Chad Jenkins is no longer a looming threat to make an overly large number of appearances.

However, an improvement to the team like this does not come without great cost. Firesales like the ones held recently by Miami and Boston are far from the norm. The Jays cannot expect to continuously acquire elite talents like Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera for below market value. Eventually, they would have to pay the same price that everyone else was paying to acquire a frontline starter.

That cost was two of the team’s Top 4 prospects in nearly MLB-ready catcher Travis d’Arnaud and Lo-A RHP Noah Syndergaard. Having heard that the Mets were asking for Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley from the Red Sox and having witnessed the deal for James Shields, the Jays were well aware of the current market for a frontline starter. Though they very well could wait to try to acquire someone mid-season, the team would only benefit from a partial season of their production and the AL East could drastically improve by 2014.

Though both d’Arnaud and Syndergaard could be future All-Stars, Dickey is an All-Star now that drastically improves the Blue Jays whole pitching staff and instantly makes it one of the very best in baseball and suddenly the best in the AL East. However, d’Arnaud and Syndergaard are not without major question marks. Travis d’Arnaud has played in ~80 games a season for the last 3 years and has just suffered a season-ending knee surgery. He also strikes out a lot. Noah Syndergaard strikes out a lot of batters he faces, but he’s also never thrown a pitch above Lo-A. His secondaries are getting mixed reviews though everyone agrees they are certainly improving. However, he still had the lower physical ceiling between him and fellow Lugnut Aaron Sanchez.

Alex Anthopoulos has been suspected of distorting his perceptions of his prospects prior to moving them. Nestor Molina had his tires pumped by Anthopoulos prior to his trade to the Chicago White Sox for closer-to-be Sergio Santos. Molina has since floundered in the White Sox’ system. Perhaps  Alex Anthopoulos used reported earlier rebuffs of inquiries on d’Arnaud in order to build the perception that he was an Anthopoulos Untouchable in the organization that would only be moved for elite talent. Perhaps the team didn’t believe in the long-term future of Syndergaard’s breaking stuff and decided to sell high. What’s more likely is that AA decided that this was a unique moment in the AL East that was his for the taking and decided to make the final pushes that he’d always planned to make when the time was right. Either way, the team could not expect immediate contributions from either prospect and were more likely going to wait years for above-average production in the MLB, if at all.

Phase 6: Maintenance

Though the prospect cost was high in trades with the Marlins and Mets, it doesn’t actually leave the team short of quality prospects at pitcher, catcher or in centre field.

The team still has Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman, Roberto Osuna and Daniel Norris at similar stages to in their development to Syndergaard along with more quality arms poised for action in short-season levels including Matthew Smoral, Alberto Tirado, Chase DeJong and Adonys Cardona. There’s even hope for remaining for pitchers in the upper minors like Chad Jenkins, Deck McGuire, John Stilson and Sean Nolin to make a meaningful contribution in the coming years.

With JP Arencibia under team control for the next four years, the team is in no rush to graduate a catcher but the team does have a strong defensive catcher in AJ Jimenez who also performed well offensively in his last full season in the pitcher-friendly FSL. Now coming off Tommy John surgery in 2013, AJ Jimenez could begin the year with either New Hampshire in AA or Buffalo in AAA but could move quickly to the MLB if he returns strong. Behind him, the team has Sean Ochinko is a sleeper pick who was not overmatched when moved up to AA to replace Jimenez. Santiago Nessy who projects to have above average power but lacks the defensive game at this stage in his development is an interesting name to watch after a strong 2012 season.

Though one of the team’s best prospects, Jake Marisnick had a number of question marks including whether he’d be able to stick in centre field. Considering the two years of control remaining of Rasmus, the presence of Gose at AAA and the plethora of up-the-middle prospects in the lower minors, Marisnick was actually quite expendable. There were also concerns about whether he would be able to stick in centre field which would have allowed his bat to play up.

In the end, the Blue Jays still have a farm system stocked with talent at the lower levels that with time could place the team at the top of farm system rankings once more. For now, AA will have to continue gaming the draft system in order to acquire talent more efficiently than their rivals. AA won’t have the flexibility that he had with supplemental picks but neither will most other teams. The team has also shown itself to be proficient in signing some of the best talent available in the international market including under-the-radar guys like Alberto Tirado. There is no reason to believe that AA will not be able to continue adding high-ceiling talent in the years to come.


Though the moves made this offseason are drastic and unforeseen, the rise of the Blue Jays should not be viewed as wholly unexpected. The flurry of trades and signings were widely expected to be the product of more incremental improvements and the eventual graduation of prospects. Presented with a unique opportunity to acquire a bevy of talent and with a division in flux, AA pounced on the chance to build a clear cut division favourite capable of winning 95+ games. The beauty of prospects lies in their flexibility. This flexibility allowed the Jays to accelerate their timeline by immediately turning them into proven performers.

If Boston had kept their foot on the gas and counted on a bounce back 2013 with some additions, New York had made the previously expected splash and Tampa Bay had decided to not be so frugal all of a sudden, then it’s almost certain that Alex Anthopoulos would have been content to wait patiently for another year to strike when his prospects were all the more valuable or waited even until the homegrown talent was winning championships themselves. But Anthopoulos decided that the best thing for this team was to take advantage of the core in place now and the lull in the division to great effect.

Make no bones about it. The Plan has come to fruition. The Blue Jays have arrived and they don’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.

2013 Blue Jays’ Lineup Optimization: Old School vs. New School

Now that Alex Anthopoulos and the Toronto Blue Jays have infused their lineup with premiere talent that has not been seen in such concentration since the glory days of the early 90s. With the additions of speedsters Jose Reyes and Emilio Bonifacio, high-average/on-base Melky Cabrera, and former 20-HR-hitting catcher John Buck, the team’s new/old manager, John Gibbons, will have to decide how to best position these weapons in the lineup to maximize run production. Though an optimized lineup will only result in a modest number of additional runs over the course of a season, the few additional wins could mean the difference between a 1-and-Done Wild Card appearance and a 3-game minimum Division Series in 2013.

(As a backgrounder, it would be helpful to read Sky Kalkman’s “Optimizing your lineup by The Book” which explores the relationship between old school and new school thinking on the construction of a batting order.)

With the selection of John Gibbons, Alex Anthopoulos has put in place a manager who has shown in the past that he is not afraid to mix in some new-school tactics by taking advantage of platoons (Frank Catalanotto/Reed Johnson), batting a high-OBP player leadoff despite them lacking speed on the basepaths, and effective splits-centric bullpen management. In his introductory press conference this morning, Gibbons hinted at his lineup construction when asked about where he saw Melky Cabrera fitting into the order. He felt that because of his ability to put the ball in play and get on base consistently, Cabrera would be best suited to hit at the top of the order, presumably 2nd. He alluded to Cabrera’s ability to get on-base as a reason to have him hit more often (be higher in the order) which is a tenet of the new school.

Gibbons gained the reputation as a bit of a station-to-station Manager during his time at the helm of the Jays, though this may have been more of a product of the lack of speed on his rosters. However, he said that because of the powerful bats hitting in the middle of the order, there was no reason for the players ahead of them to run into ‘stupid outs’. Presumably, Jose Reyes would be given the green light to move up, but the rest of the hitters would be held according to the situation.

Position Old School Thinking Blue Jays’ Old School Order New School Thinking New School Order Vs. LHP New School Order Vs. RHP
1 Speed is of the utmost importance. OBP is an added bonus. Power is not important. Think Devon White. Jose Reyes OBP is all that matters since they come up most without runners in scoring position and are followed by the power heavy hitters of the lineup. Jose Reyes Jose Reyes
2 This spot requires a bat-control guy who doesn’t necessarily have great power or even hit for a good average but is able to move the leadoff man over. Brett Lawrie Has nearly as important appearances as the #3 hitter, but has them more often. Bats with the bases empty more often that players behind him and should therefore possess strong on-base skills. Should be a better hitter than the #3 and the one of the 3 best overall. Melky Cabrera Melky Cabrera
3 The old-school book says to put the hitter with the best average. Power is not a necessity for the 3-hole. Melky Cabrera Appears with fewer runners on base than the #4-5 hitters that follow him. Should therefore have less power than both. Brett Lawrie Brett Lawrie
4 The old-school book says to put your big power bat here, probably a guy with a low batting average, who will hit the big multi-run homeruns. Jose Bautista Comes to bat most often in the high-leverage situations but is equal to the #2 hitter in importance. Best hitter on the team with power. Jose Bautista Jose Bautista
5 The old-school book says the number five guy is a wannabe cleanup hitter. Edwin Encarnacion Provides more value than #3 hitter with non-HRs (1B, 2B, 3B, BB, HBP). Should be the team’s 4th-best hitter, though they should not be a strict HR hitter like Mark Reynolds. Edwin Encarnacion Edwin Encarnacion
6 The old-school book says the rest of the lineup should be written in based on decreasing talent. Hitting ninth is an insult. Adam Lind The Book agrees that the #6-9 hitters should descend in talent, though the manager should consider that base stealers are best optimized in front of high-contact singles hitters. Rajai Davis Emilio Bonifacio
7 Colby Rasmus Emilio Bonifacio Adam Lind
8 JP Arencibia / John Buck JP Arencibia / John Buck / Travis d’Arnaud Colby Rasmus
9 Emilio Bonifacio Colby Rasmus JP Arencibia/John Buck/Travis d’Arnaud

Old School 2013 Blue Jays Batting Order:

The old school mentality would likely result in a Blue Jays’ batting order that started with speedster Jose Reyes at the top of the order with Brett Lawrie slotted into the 2-hole where he could be expected to sacrifice an out to move up Reyes. Melky would likely find himself in the 3-hole because of his pedigree as a high-average hitter that lacks the power necessary to bat 4th or 5th. Don’t be fooled though. If the lineup were a little thinner, Melky could be batting cleanup as a proven ‘RBI-guy’. Naturally, Jose Bautista would be slotted into the cleanup spot with Edwin Encarnacion following him in the ‘wannabe cleanup’ spot.

The 6th through 9th spots are not so clear cut but Old School mentality dictates that veterans are better than younger players, and peak production trumps what they’ve done for you lately. Therefore, Adam Lind would find himself batting 6th behind the top power hitters where he’d be expected to hit the 3rd straight grand slam every time he came to the plate. Colby Rasmus, the 20 HR-hitting center fielder, would probably follow Lind. Fellow 20-HR hitters JP Arencibia/John Buck (who are basically the same player), lack a bit of the batting average/on-base production of Rasmus, and would likely follow him in the order. The last spot in the order would then fall to Emilio Bonifacio who lacks the power numbers to hit higher in the order. He would likely have to split time at 2nd with Maicer Izturis who has less upside but has more experience/wisdom. Though the old school managers have gotten a little better at adjusting based on whether they faced a left or right-handed starter, they still manage to mess it up by doing it inconsistently. So there’s only one lineup listed.

If an old school manager were particularly wary of using young players at the top of the lineup, then Brett Lawrie could be dropped down in the order and a more experienced hitter used in his place. He plays the game the right way though, so it’s unlikely the other options that don’t fit the traditional profile as well would move up. He could also be dropped down to the bottom of the order where there’s supposedly less pressure. In that case, Edwin may be flipped with Bautista with former Silver Slugger Adam Lind moving back to his way too familiar spot 5th in the order.

New School 2013 Blue Jays Batting Order:

The lineup for a follower of The Book’s lineup optimization philosophy would likely look a lot different with Brett Lawrie swapped for Melky Cabrera who’s superior hitting/on-base skills would be better utilized in the 2-hole which is the 2nd-most important spot in the lineup because of the additional plate appearances they receive. Though Melky and Reyes have similar contact/on-base skills, the latter’s edge in speed would see him bat leadoff in a new school lineup. Brett Lawrie’s power was much less evident in his first full season after a blistering debut in 2011 and unless he slows down and it returns, he will likely find himself in the 3-hole of a new school lineup with the current core.

Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion would remain slotted #4-#5 in a new school lineup. However, the 6th through 9th slots would change under a new school manager based upon the starter. Versus lefties, the Jays might try to bat Rajai Davis behind the middle of the order since he brings elite speed and above-average offensive production. Fellow speedster and singles-hitter Bonifacio would likely follow him with JP Arencibia coming ahead of Colby Rasmus who can often struggle against lefties. If Rasmus struggles mightily in CF, he may start losing his at-bats especially versus lefties to the likes of Maicer Izturis or even Moises Sierra/Anthony Gose. However, the Jays will likely afford Rasmus plenty of rope with the quality additions made to the offence.

Versus righties, Emilio Bonifacio might be best utilized immediately after the heart of the order where his speed could be utilized ahead of a hitter like Adam Lind who hits plenty of singles versus righties. Lind does have the power numbers to warrant the 6th spot, but if that were the case Bonifacio might be better used in the 9th spot where he would interact with the top of the order since the Rasmus/catchers aren’t known for hitting lots of singles. These players’ slots could change rapidly though based on their performance since they’ve shown different talent levels/potential during their careers.

AJ Jimenez, Ryan Goins Added to 40-Man Roster

The November 20th deadline to set 40-man rosters came with a few decisions for Blue Jays management on some first-time eligible players. Catching prospect AJ Jimenez who spent most of the year recovering from Tommy John surgery and shortstop Ryan Goins who just finished a rough stint in the Arizona Fall League were added to the 40-man roster. Management must be higher on Goins than the rest of the world because he would be difficult for a team to carry on their roster for a full season.

Somewhat surprisingly, Mike McDade was removed from the 40-man and will be exposed to the Rule 5 draft. Though he had never put up the kind of offensive numbers expected from a 1B/DH, McDade had provided some hope in his time in the system with his strong defense and at least average offensive production. He would be difficult for a team to carry for a full season, but a rebuilding team like the Houston Astros may take a chance on him at the league minimum.

Also DFA’d were frequently flying supersub Mike McCoy and recently claimed former Yankee Cory Wade. McCoy had filled the organization’s needs all over the diamond including the mound in the last few seasons. He provided good value with his ability to play multiple positions, but he contributed very little on offense despite having above-average speed. Even if he is not claimed by another team, he was unlikely to see action for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2013 barring another season filled with injuries because of the signing of Maicer Izturis and the arrival of Anthony Gose and Moises Sierra in the outfield.

Javier Avendano, a pitcher who relieved for the Lansing Lugnuts before earning some starts with the Vancouver Canadians, is a pitcher picked up in last year’s minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft. He remains far enough away from the Majors that teams should be hesitant to draft him, but again, could be a tempting pickup for a rebuilding team. He projects as reliever anyways and would not be a devastating loss if he was lost.

Another name that will have to be exposed is Kevin Nolan, a SS who OPS’ed .855 at A+ Dunedin in his age 24 season, who is likely too far away from the Majors to be picked for a Major League roster spot.

Blue Jays Organization Rule 5 Eligibility – Bluebird Banter

MjwW takes a look at “Blue Jays Organization Rule 5 Eligibility” at Bluebird Banter in advance of the deadline of today to set 40-man rosters in advance of the Rule 5 Draft next month.