While not the official midway point through the season, the allstar break certainly serves as the unofficial midway point in the long, 162-game season that is major league baseball. I thought it would be fitting to take advantage of the allstar break to prepare a report card of sorts and break down the different aspects of the Blue Jays organization. This is part three of the series: The Outfield.
Going into Spring Training the outfield was locked in as Melky Cabrera – LF, Colby Rasmus – CF, and Jose Bautista – RF. Rajai Davis was to be the club’s 4th outfielder and late game pinch runner and Emilio Bonifacio was to split time, as a true utility man does, between the INF and OF (although since Bonifacio is listed as an infielder on the roster, I’ll comment on him in Part Four of the series). There were some chirps by fans that the club would be better served dropping Colby Rasmus and allow young-gun Anthony Gose to play CF full time. Here’s a look how the outfield has played.
Anthony Gose (.304 AVG, .385 OBP, .391 SLG, 0 HR, 0 RBI) – Despite a minority group of fans that were wanting to see Gose supersede Rasmus in CF to start the season, anyone who knew what they were talking about agreed that having the 22-year-old start in triple-A would be good for his development. In 56 games with the Blue Jays in 2012, Gose showed off his speed with 15 steals in 18 attempts, his arm with 2 assists, and his ability to track the ball off the bat with a 2.09 range factor in CF (think B.J. Upton). However, he hit just .223 and struck out 59 times. So why not have this young kid at least start the year in triple-A and try and get a more consistent approach at the plate? When Davis hit the DL this season, Gose got the call up to be the 4th OF and late game pinch runner. In 13 games he hit .304….but he didn’t have a single stolen base. Why not? Perhaps he’s grown gun shy. In triple-A this season, Gose has only 11 steals in 21 attempts. That’s a far cry from his 2011 numbers in double-A: 70 steals in 85 attempts. Now with Rasmus performing well and the fans starting to realize why the Jays didn’t want to give up on him, and with Gose struggling in triple-A – he’s batting .225 in 284 at bats, Gose is beginning to look less and less like Carl Crawford and more and more like Joey Gathright. I’m sure Gose will get a September call up, but it’s definitely telling that when Cabrera recently hit the DL, the Jays turned to Munenori Kawasaki – an infielder, and chose to play with only 3 OF on the 25-man roster. Perhaps this is an off year for Gose who had gotten better every season in the minors up until 2013. He now looks further away from making the team than he did in March. I do, however, like the idea of a Gose/Davis platoon if any outfield hits the DL in the second half.
Rajai Davis (.288 AVG, .335 OBP, .380 SLG, 2 HR, 11 RBI) – Now that Davis is in his third season with the Jays, we all know what we are getting – a guy that frustrates you because he refuses to hit a cutoff man, and doesn’t get on base enough vs. right-handers, but also a guy that is one of the few real game changers in the MLB on the bases. Davis already has 24 steals in 27 attempts despite spending time on the DL with an oblique strain. But although he started batting well vs. righties this season, the numbers show he’s heading closer to his career averages. His 2013 splits of .343 avg, .389 obp, .507 slg vs. lefties yet only a paltry .250 avg, .298 obp, .292 slg vs. righties make Davis the perfect platoon player. If the Jays could find an outfielder who hit righties well , they would be set (think Reed Johnson/Frank Cattalanotto). For a while, it looked like Rasmus might be that guy. But this season he is showing much better vs. lefties than his career average and looks much more comfortable at the plate – and as a young player with tremendous power, the Jays are likely to want his bat in the line up. Perhaps Gose one day becomes the platoon with Davis? I wouldn’t mind seeing that.
Melky Cabrera (.278 AVG, .321 OBP, .362 SLG, 3 HR, 29 RBI) – The hot topic surrounding Cabrera is “will he be suspended for 100 games following the break?” My thoughts? Absolutely not. He has already served his time. Under the rules of the collective bargaining agreement, the league would have to have proof that Cabrera took PED’s after his previously served 50 game suspension. I doubt even he is that stupid. I think Cabrera will win any appeal should the league try and suspend him. PED’s aside, Cabrera hasn’t been the guy the Jays were after – primarily because he’s been playing on sore legs all year – but when you look at the numbers, he’s been pretty good. After a slow start in April – .241 avg, .291 obp, .287 slg, Cabrera really started to put things together in May – .319 avg, .361 obp, .460 slg. Put it this way, Cabrera is on the DL but he is still second on the team in hits with 86. Hopefully Cabrera can return after the break and perform to his capabilities. When on, he is a great, pure hitter.
Colby Rasmus (.263 AVG, .332 OBP, .484 SLG, 16 HR, 48 RBI) – Since Rasmus joined the Jays, there have been a lot of Rasmus haters out there. I’ve been defending him constantly and he is starting to prove me (and more importantly the organization) right. Rasmus entered the break as hot as anyone on the team, hitting .375 so far in July. The biggest reason? He is starting to drive the ball the other way with authority. Early in the year (and since he’s been a Blue Jay), when he makes contact Rasmus has either pulled the ball hard or hit it weakly the other way. With his new found ability to drive the ball to the opposite gap, we could be looking at a young player who has just figured it out. He is third on the team in home runs and RBIs, behind only Edwin Encarnacion and Bautista, and he’s playing a terrific CF with a range factor of 2.74 which is good enough for 4th best in the AL and 6th best in the MLB. Rasmus’ weakness is obviously the K. He strikes out about once every 3 at bats – far too much. But he is starting to hit the other way, which should help. And with RISP, he boasts a .348 AVG and a ridiculously good 1.072 OPS, so it’s not like his strikeouts are killing too many rallies. Watching Rasmus the past couple weeks and watching him go with the pitch, I really think he’ll be an allstar in 2014. All he needed to do was learn to drive the ball the other way. He’s now doing it and if it continues, watch out.
Jose Bautista (.254 AVG, .351 OBP, .493 SLG, 20 HR, 55 RBI) – Most teams would kill for a RF with a cannon arm (7 assists – 2nd for all MLB RF) who has hit 20 homers and driven in 55 by the allstar break. But Jays fans have been spoiled with Bautista the previous few seasons and for him, this is a down year so far. Although his numbers are about what you would expect, he continues to chase pitches out of the zone and goes through prolonged slumps at the dish. You can always tell when he’s in one because he’ll be seen arguing balls and strikes with the homeplate umpire. I just wish he would lead by example. And by that I mean, stop whining and play hard. He and Encarnacion are a terrifying duo for opposing pitchers and if the Jays are going to get hot in the second half, you have to figure Bautista will be a big part of any success. I hope he moves back to the 3 hole (or 4 or 5 hole), though. Hitting him #2 doesn’t do it for me – never did (but we’ll save that discussion for Part Five of the series: Management).
The Jays need big things from Bautista, need Rasmus to continue to progress, and need Cabrera to come back strong from the DL if they want to have a shot at ripping off some serious wins. And Davis, stretch your hammies. You’ll be greenlighted for the rest of the year.
Prior to yesterday’s win vs. the Rays, the Blue Jays called up Anthony Gose from triple-A and sent righty Mickey Storey back to the minors. Gose, considered to be a valuable piece of the Blue Jays’ future, has struggled at the plate so far in triple-A this season, so his call up is a bit surprising. He was batting .227 with 2 homers and 12 RBIs. Perhaps the more alarming stat is the 56% stolen base percentage (5 of 9).
With Melky Cabrera’s hamstring tightening up on one leg and his quad tightening up on the other, look for Gose to get a bit of time in left field as a defensive replacement late in games. He’ll also most likely be used as a pinch runner and get the odd spot start in the outfield. The 22-year-old left handed hitter was 15 for 18 in stolen base attempts last season with the Jays. He possesses a cannon arm and lightning speed. The question is plate discipline and how well he can hit major league pitching.
Some members of the media think this move doesn’t make sense because Gose should be getting regular at bats and he won’t start everyday with the Jays. But in my opinion he can gain valuable experience on the bench by being around big leaguers. And with Rajai Davis on the DL, it’s nice to have a late game pinch runner when you need one.
Storey had pitched 3.2 innings, given up 2 runs, allowed 6 hits, 1 walk and struck out 5 in his brief stint with the Jays.
I thought I’d drop out a couple update bullets on how the Blue Jays are fairing in Florida:
- Josh Johnson pitched a perfect 3.2 innings yesterday, racking up 5 strikeouts before exiting the game due to his pitch count. A good sign.
- Anthony Gose looks much more discipline at the plate – he went 3 for 4 yesterday and also had his 4th and 5th stolen bases of the spring.
- Jose Bautista continued to show power and that his wrist is not a issue – he hit his third homer of the spring today.
- Colby Rasmus returned to the line up today after being delayed twice with a sore right shoulder. He went 0-2 with a walk and a strikeout. Good to see him back on the field.
- Ricky Romero struggle with command, walking 3 and giving up 3 hits over 2 innings. Nothing to worry about at the point in the spring, but worth keeping an eye on since Romero handed out a lot of free passes last season.
The count down is on until my trip to see the boys in Florida. March 21st can’t come soon enough!
There is a lot of chatter out there right now regarding a potential multi-player trade between the Toronto Blue Jays and the New York Mets that would bring the Jays last seasons NL Cy Young award winner, R.A. Dickey. It’s rumoured that the Mets want a centre fielder and a catcher in return. What remains to be seen is what combination of these players would Toronto give up. If the Mets are looking for “major league ready” players, it would most likely be a combination of two of the following four players: Colby Rasmus, John Buck, Anthony Gose, and JP Arencibia.
The Jays do have depth at both these positions, but I’m still not sure they are that close to making a move. I remember all too fondly the Yu Darvish and Prince Fielder rumours of last offseason. Usually, if it’s a rumour and the Blue Jays are involved, it’s not happening. Alex Anthopoulos is the stealth of GM’s and operates in the dark.
Dickey’s contract is intriguing, however. At 38 years old, he has gotten better every season over the last three. Last year he won the NL Cy Young with a 20-6 record and a sparkling 2.73 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. He is under contract for only 2013 for $5 million (which seems like a bargain in this market). Dickey is reported seeking a 2 year, $26 million extension. It’s easy to say: 3 years at $31 million makes a lot of sense, even for a 38 year old.
Dickey is a knuckleballer and therefore is thought to possess a rubber arm. These types of pitchers often pitch soundly into their early 40s. But is a combination of, say, JP Arencibia and Anthony Gose too much to give up for Dickey?
I definitely think yes. I’m all for the move if it does go through, although I doubt it will since it’s rumoured (not Anthopoulos’ style), but that’s more because I trust AA to know his team. Pat Gillick sat in front of me last season during spring training and told me that the two Jays prospects he was most excited about were single-A pitcher Noah Syndergaard and triple-A outfielder Anthony Gose. If Gillick says this, I’m hesitant to move either of these players.
Also, the Jays gave up quite a bit to get J.A Happ – someone that had been in Anthopoulos’ crosshairs since the Roy Halladay deal with Philly. The Jays sent two major leaguers that were not part of the future – Francisco Cordero and Ben Francisco – and four minor league prospects – Joe Musgrove, Asher Wojciechowski, David Rollins and Carlos Perez – and a player to be named later to Houston for J.A. Happ, Brandon Lyon, and David Carpenter. Lyon was a free agent at the end of last year and looks to be gone. Carpenter was traded to the Red Sox along with John Farrell for Mike Aviles (and then claimed off waivers by the Braves this offseason – Aviles, of course was traded with Yan Gomes to Cleveland for righty reliever Esmil Rogers). So, we got Happ for four minor leaguers – two who are quality prospects in Musgrove and Wojciechowshi, and two guys we wanted to get rid of, basically.
That’s still a lot for just Happ, though. Isn’t it? I was super shocked when Farrell didn’t immediately replace Brett Cecil in the rotation with Happ (you’ll remember my blog on Darren Oliver – To play or not to play where I discuss Cecil’s attributes as a lefty specialist out of the bullpen) and instead had Happ “prove himself in the ‘pen” before putting him in a rotation that was more beaten down than Tina Turner circa 1970.
I know AA wants to upgrade the rotation and I’m fine with this move if he makes it. But we gave up a lot for Happ and I really don’t mind him as a 5th starter. I don’t think AA minds him either. But if we can get Dickey without giving up too much, well, I might just win my bet after all (see my first blog ever on this site for reference).