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.
For those who missed it this weekend, the Blue Jays have brought up Brett Lawrie – as a 2B. This move is a bit of a head scratcher to me. I think Lawrie is certainly athletic enough to play 2B, but there is no viable, long-term replacement at 3B on the roster in my opinion. The Jays plan to use Maicer Izturis and Mark DeRosa at the hot corner for now. Is there something in the works to acquire a premier 3B before the trade deadline?
The Jays are saying they see SS Jose Reyes and Lawrie setting up as a long-term double-play team. Yet even Reyes says that the transition for Lawrie probably would be easier if it had of happened in Spring Training either this year or next. For the record, Reyes believes Lawrie is more than capable of playing 2B – he just thinks it would be an easier move if Lawrie had more reps.
Lawrie went 1 – 8 at the plate in his first two games back and didn’t commit an error with limited chances at 2B.
Again, this move is a bit bizarre to me but we’ll see how it plays out.
The odd-man-out is once again Munenori Kawasaki. Kaswasaki was optioned to triple-A to make room for Lawrie.
The Jays are still carrying an 8-man bullpen but will likely go back to a traditional 7-man ‘pen when Melky Cabrera comes back from the DL shortly or immediately after the allstar break. Barring any trades (think Darren Oliver), the Jays will likely send down Neil Wagner simply because everyone in the ‘pen is pitching so well and he is the guy with minor league options.
In case you’ve been wondering the status of either Brett Lawrie’s rehab or Melky Cabrera’s wonky knee, I’d thought I’d give you a brief update.
Brett Lawrie – After playing 6 games low-A, Lawrie has now joined the organization’s double-A team. The Jays are intent of giving Lawrie as much time as he needs to get his timing down at the plate after rushing him off the DL in April. In low-A, Lawrie went 0 – 6 with 2 walks. The 23-year-old 3B was batting .209 with a .268 obp in 37 games before spraining his ankle. It’s reported the Jays are not asking Lawrie to make any mechanical adjustments to his “moving-parts” swing. Why they aren’t taking the opportunity to do this now is beyond me.
Melky Cabrera – It’s no surprise that even though Cabrera will be eligible to come off the DL two games prior to the allstar break that the team will likely use the break as a few extra days off before having Cabrera return to the club. The LF did some running this week and has been constantly taking batting practice. All signs point to Cabrera joining the team immediately following the allstar break.
It appears as if Brett Lawrie is making progress. The Blue Jays’ 3B finally got into some rehab play earlier this week at the single-A level. Lawrie has been out since May 27 with a sprained ankle.
The Jays figure Lawrie will need two weeks of minor league action before rejoining the big club. He’ll likely play a couple games in single-A and then transition to triple-A much like Jose Reyes did during his rehab.
Lawrie got off to a dreadful start after being rushed through a previous rehab assignment to start his season. He hit only .209 in 37 games. The Jays do, however, miss Lawrie’s glove at 3B. And with no Melky Cabrera in the line up (put on DL last Thursday), I’m sure the Jays will welcome the 23-year-old’s bat.
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.
Jose Reyes is set to rejoin the Blue Jays in time for their series finale against Tampa Bay on Wednesday afternoon. During his rehab in both single-A and triple-A, Reyes hit .414 (12 for 29) with a double and six runs scored in 7 games. He even swiped a couple bags.
The Jays have said the Reyes will immediately be placed into the lineup at SS and at the top of the batting order. The Jays have also hinted that Melky Cabrera will be bumped to the 5th spot and Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion will continue to hit in the 2 and 3 holes. While I certainly understand why the Jays would want to ensure both Bautista and Encarnacion get at bats in the first inning, I’m more of a fan of having them hit in their traditional 3 and 4 spots and having Cabrera hit #2. This would give more a chance for RBIs and allow the Jays to run more with Reyes. Are they really going to cut Reyes lose with Bautista and Encarnacion at the plate? I think history shows the Jays will play for the 2-run homer. With Cabrera in the 2 hole, it is smart to run with Reyes, provoke pitchers into wanting to use the open bag and walk Cabrera if they fall behind, and set up an even bigger inning. “A pitcher would never pitch around Cabrera with a bag open if Bautista is behind him” you might say. Well then Cabrera is hitting with a runner in scoring position and a double play is avoided. If Bautista hits #2, Reyes base running talents are not used to their potential. Period.
The biggest question is what corresponding move the Jays will make prior to tomorrow’s game. Who is the odd man out? Munenori Kawasaki? Juan Perez? Dustin McGowan? It will be interesting to see what the Jays do tomorrow. For my thoughts, read yesterday’s blog post on the topic (sorry, Kawasaki).
The Blue Jays have moved Jose Reyes from single-A to triple-A to continue his rehab assignment vs. stiffer competition.
In three games in single-A, Reyes went 5-13 (.385), scored 3 runs, and stole a base.
The Jays have said they want Reyes to play a minimum of three games in triple-A to ensure his timing at the plate isn’t an issue when they bring him back to the big club. And while the Jays haven’t schedule a return date, there is lots of speculation that he will join the team when they depart on a division rival filled roadtrip next Monday – 3 games in Tampa, 4 games in Boston.
In 10 games, Reyes hit .395 with 3 extra-base hits and 5 steals.
Reyes has been out since April 12 when he suffered a severe ankle sprain while stealing second. The Jays will immediately have Reyes resume his role as the starting SS and leadoff hitter upon his return. The question becomes what the rest of the batting order will look like. There is talk that Gibbons might move Melky Cabrera to the 5th spot (currently he is leading off) to keep Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Adam Lind in the 2,3,4 spots. I think this is silly. Put Reyes at the top of the line up, have Cabrera bat 2nd (as was the plan going into the season) and Bautista, Encarnacion, and Lind can round out the heart of the order at 3,4,5.
Barring any setbacks, Reyes looks to be back with the Jays ahead of the original forecast (allstar break) which is very rare for this organization. Usually, the Jays are overly optimistic with recovery times and fans are disappointed. Reyes quick recovery is a pleasant surprise.