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.
It didn’t take long for Munenori Kawasaki to make his return to the Blue Jays clubhouse.
Melky Cabrera was placed on the 15-day disabled list with left knee tendinitis on Thursday night and Kawasaki got the call up after being sent down to triple-A just two days earlier when Jose Reyes returned from the DL. Cabrera’s legs have been an issue all season and you have to wonder if this was intentionally timed to line up near the upcoming allstar break to give the veteran a few extra days off after he is eligible to come off the DL.
Kawasaki, 32, hit .225 with a .337 on-base percentage and seven stolen bases in 60 games with the Blue Jays as Reyes’ primarily replacement at shortstop. Kawasaki also made his mark with a big smile and ability to come through in the clutch.
Without Cabrera, Rajai Davis, Colby Rasmus and Jose Bautista are the only three pure outfielders on the roster, but Emilio Bonifacio and Mark DeRosa can also play in the outfield.
I expect Davis will see most of the time in left field and Bonifacio will spell him occasionally, opening up a spot on the infield at 2B for Kawasaki from time-to-time.
Let’s hope Davis can hit righties over an extended period. He’s struggled with it throughout his career.
It’s been an eventful week for our beloved Blue Jays. Over the past week we’ve seen the following:
- Sean Nolin had a rough debut but in my opinion has good stuff
- Nolin got sent down following his start – wrong move in my opinion and the Jays leave glaring holes in the rotation
- R.A. Dickey got lit up by a potent Orioles offence and then the Braves – he sure isn’t pitching like an ace
- Munenori Kawasaki became a hero while Brett Lawrie became a villian during a walk off win
- Lawrie hit the DL with an ankle sprain
- Colby Rasmus got the better of his brother Cory in a rare pitcher/brother battle at the MLB level by ripping a double
- Brandon Morrow got pulled and is now day-to-day with a right forearm strain
- Casey Janssen’s shoulder kept him out of an extra inning game vs. the Braves and Ramon Ortiz and Thad Weber can’t hold the game
- Ortiz and Weber got sent down, Juan Perez, Neil Wagner, and Todd Redmond – Perez and Wagner back up Esmil Rogers first start sine 2011 to help shutout the Braves (Perez looked amazing)
With all that news, here are my thoughts:
- Don’t call up Nolin just to send him down after one bad outing. It’s worse for his confidence to go up and down than it is to stay up and try again. Especially with no Josh Johnson, an injured Morrow, and a combination of Chad Jenkins/Esmil Rogers plugging holes. If you call a kid up, give him a few starts. Drew Hutchison came up last season and didn’t fair well at first but good pitches make adjustments (and I believe Nolin is a good pitcher). The first three runs he surrendered in the 1st inning vs. the Orioles were due to a seeing eye single, a little bloop single, then a homer off a quality strike down and away. He pitched much better than his line showed – give the kid a chance to redeem himself. If he wasn’t ready for the majors, why call him up in the first place?
- The Jays need to figure out what is wrong with Dickey. I think it’s because of his tight neck and shoulder – the last couple years he consistently hit 80 mph with his knuckler and now it’s more often 74-75 mph. He doesn’t have nearly the control with it as evidence by his walk rate per inning pitched being double compared to his previous three seasons. Dickey needs to make the adjustment of not throwing as hard. Perhaps mixing in more slow knucklers at 60 – 65 mph to make the 75 mph look that much faster. Also, he needs to throw more first pitch fastballs. Opponents are almost always taking the first pitch. Why would you not take at least one strike vs. a knuckleballer?
- Dear Lawrie, you are not mature, you are not playing well, and you should never show up your teammates or coaches – especially on a potential sac fly for a run that means nothing. When you come back from the DL, just shut up, stop whining, and play good, quality baseball with a smile on your face. You’re attitude grew tiresome ages ago.
- Morrow, please don’t say you’re fine when you’re not fine. If you can’t pitch, don’t try. You just screw up the bullpen for the next three games. Enough with the bumped back starts. Just take a 15-day trip to the DL if you have to. With Johnson coming back, it’s the right time to do it if you need to.
- Janssen, I love ya buddy. But really, you felt that much better one day later and could pick up a 1-2-3 save? I would have taken your wonky shoulder over Weber’s third appearance in three days ANY day of the week. I mean, last week we were all saying “who is Thad Weber?” Just be ready to go when we need you. If you can’t pitch after a week off, maybe you should be on the DL also.
- Perez and Wagner – great numbers in triple-A (0.86 and 0.89 ERAs respectively). Keep it up. Maybe we won’t be such a revolving door in the ‘pen.
Final thought – Why not start Edwin Encarnacion at 3B and Adam Lind at 1B during inter-league play vs. righties? If you get a lead, make a defensive substitution. I know Edwin is pretty awful at 3B, but we need to score runs and Lind is leading our team in AVG and is second to only Jose Bautista in OBP. We need to have him in the game for more than one at bat. As a good friend of mine asked me, if Cito could start Paul Molitor at 3B during the ’93 world series in Atlanta, why can’t Gibbons start Edwin there on game 54 of the regular season?
A very deflating game. Anytime you have a chance to win against David Price (career 12 -2 record vs. the Blue Jays going into last night) you have to close it out.
Just a couple of comments:
1. I know I keep harping on this, but again there was another situation with 1st and 3rd, one out, and a sub par batter at the plate. Why not bunt??? We had Colby Rasmus on 3rd, Maicer Izturis on 1st, and Henry Blanco at the dish. The score was tied 3-3. James Loney was glued to 1st base to hold Izturis. Blanco should have bunted up the first base line, scored Rasmus, moved Izturis into scoring position for Rajai Davis and given the Jays the lead. Instead, we choose to go for the strike ’em out, throw ’em out double play. Brutal.
2. Brad Lincoln – you had Luke Scott 0-2. The bases were loaded. Why nibble, nibble, nibble, on the edges? And if you do and Scott is back to 3-2, with the bases loaded and 2 out in with the walk off run at 3rd, you must throw a strike – even if it means a fastball down the pipe. Pretty tough to defence a walk.
Let’s take 2 of 3 from Boston this weekend.
There is still a bit of a buzz around Blue Jays nation following a move made by manager John Gibbons on April 16th. Gibbons brought Rajai Davis off the bench to pinch hit for Colby Rasmus – and three days later everyone is still asking “what if”…
Rasmus had been 2-2 with a homer, but was about to face a lefty. He hasn’t had many at bats vs. lefties this season, but is just 2-10 (.200 avg) with 7 K’s. Yikes. Davis, on the other hand, is 5-12 vs. lefties (.417 avg) and only hitting .200 vs. righties. Seems like a natural move to make in a tie game, right?
But Rasmus has unbelievable power and it’s hard to take a homerun guy – who is the winning run – out of a game. Also, Rasmus is by far the best defensive CF on the team. And when Emilio Bonifacio took a bad route to a ball in CF moments later, the media and fans jumped all over Gibbons.
But here’s the more puzzling move (or non-move)…..
Why did Gibbons not bring in Casey Janssen to pitch the 9th in a tie game at home? When at home you won’t get a save situation in extras, so you might as well throw your best reliever at the opposition in the 9th – your closer – and hope to score in the bottom of the 10th. Gibbons is starting to make a habit of throwing one-inning guys multiple innings. It worked when Aaron Loup pitched 3 inning of 9 up, 9 down ball. It obviously did not work when Steve Delabar pitched (or tried to pitch) 2 innings on April 16th. I didn’t mind stretching out Loup as much because we had a 4 run lead. But in a tie….use one-inning guys for one-inning and play for the home half.
Davis or Rasmus late in a tie game vs. a lefty – that move gets questioned either way and frankly I have no problem with either. If Davis had of got on a stole a base or two, nobody would be saying anything about the swap. It’s just a move that backfired and those will happen over 162 games to any manager. It’s the bullpen use that I’m questioning here, which is thought to be a strength of Gibbons.
Overall, I think Gibbons has done a good job managing the early overused bullpen. But let’s all keep our eyes on whether he starts using our one-inning guys for one inning.
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!
Colby Rasmus has been day-to-day with a sore right shoulder. He was supposed to return to the line up on Tuesday, which was pushed to today, which has now been pushed to Saturday.
Manager John Gibbons says there is nothing to read into this and fully expects Rasmus to be ready to go when the season opens April 2nd. However, the organization has a way of over promising when it comes to injuries.
Last season, Sergio Santos was held out of early spring training games “to work on his change up” and then only played 6 games during the season, was awful, and missed the rest of the year after shoulder surgery.
This year, the Jays were very comfortable saying that Casey Janssen would be ready for the start of spring training following offseason shoulder surgery – Janssen is yet to pitch in a game and a question mark to start the season with the club as far as I’m concerned.
Alex Anthopoulos just today said that Brett Lawrie will miss 2-3 weeks with a strained rib cage. Wait a minute??? Didn’t Lawrie miss 6-plus weeks last season on the DL with a strained rib cage?
And now Rasmus will be ready for the season – just like he was ready last Tuesday, and today, and will be ready this Saturday.
I hope I’m wrong.
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