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.
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 take a couple minutes and provide an injury status update.
Sergio Santos: this is becoming more and more like last season when the Blue Jays said there was no serious issues with Santos and then the next thing we knew he was getting his shoulder sliced up and he was out for the year. Santos went on the DL this year on April 14th with right triceps inflammation and was scheduled to come back immediately following his two weeks off. No surprise that hasn’t happened. He is now having “clean up” surgery on his right elbow to remove bone spurs and such and has been transferred to the 60-day DL. Not sure he’ll have any contribution again this year although the Jays are saying he could be ready to pitch within 6 weeks of the surgery since it’s considered very minor.
Josh Johnson: He worked his scheduled 3 innings yesterday in a single-A rehab game and allowed 1 run on 3 hits while striking out 5. He says he threw all of his pitches in the outing. The Jays would like him to have 2 more rehab starts without any set backs in order to build up enough arm strength to pitch at the major league level. If everything goes as planned, he’ll be back with the big club early in June. He, like Santos, was originally diagnosed with right triceps inflammation.
J.A. Happ: Happ is recovering well from the extremely scary ball to the head a couple weeks ago on May 7th. The problem that is keeping him off the mound isn’t his head at all. When Happ went down, he strained his knee. The knee is still bothering him and has kept him from throwing off a mound. The Blue Jays think that Happ could be back by the end of June, assuming he is able to start throwing within the next week or so.
Jose Reyes: Reyes has been out since April 12 after severely spraining his ankle during an awkward slide into second base on a successful steal attempt. He recently shed the walking cast and is now hitting off a tee, taking batting practice, and fielding ground balls. About the only thing Reyes isn’t doing yet is running. The Jays thought he would be out until mid-July (around the allstar break) but this is the only player who seems to be ahead of schedule. It’s possible Reyes could be back by the end of June if he keeps progressing as positively as he has been.
Dustin McGowan: I only throw McGowan into this discussion because he seems to be advancing from his never-ending injuries and the Blue Jays will have a decision to make. McGowan is out of options and will have to clear waivers unless he is given a roster spot on the big club once he finishes he rehabbing and it appears he is getting close. McGowan is currently pitching in triple-A. Anything we get out of him has to be considered a bonus at this point.
I don’t have any news on Rajai Davis and his oblique strain – this type of injury is difficult to predict a time table for return. Then again, the Jays don’t have the best track record at predictions anyway.
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.
Canadian right-handed pitcher, Trystan Magnuson, has been cut from the Blue Jays organization following a slow start to the 2013. Magnuson, 28, was at double-A and had posted a 9.00 ERA and 2.08 WHIP in 12.0 innings so far this season. In his six year minor league career, Magnuson went 13-18 with a 3.60 ERA over 334.2 innings.
The Blue Jays drafted Magnuson 56th overall in 2007 and traded him to the Athletics in the deal that brought Rajai Davis to Toronto. The Jays brought him back a year later, but the 6’7″, 220 lbs righty was never able to climb the ranks. Being 28 and regressing, the Jays opted to part ways.
If you missed the game yesterday, you missed a bit of everything.
Finally, John Gibbons started Maicer Izturis at SS and Emilio Bonifacio at 2B. Thank you – it’s about time. The offence had the long ball going, as the Blue Jays hitters bashed four homers. But then the Jays squandered a 5-2 lead and allowed the Orioles to tie the game and force extra innings. Gibbons got tossed in the 9th by defending Brett Lawrie (who was arguing balls and strikes – big surprise). Jose Bautista made an error when he lost a routine fly ball and fans across the country were thinking “here we go again”. But Rajai Davis saved the day by throwing out the walk off run at the plate in the bottom of the 10th to set up a go ahead bases loaded walk to Izturis to take the lead. Casey Janssen was spectacular again, tossing a 1-2-3 inning with two K’s.
But I want to talk about something else. With the offence struggling, why are the Jays not trying to manufacture more runs? In two of the past four games, the Jays have had a situation where Munenori Kawasaki comes to the plate with one out and runners on 1st and 3rd. He is the definition of a slap hitter and more often then not hits a ball on the ground and hope it sneaks through a hole or he can beat it out. Why not bunt up the first base line? The 1B is glued to the bag to hold the runner and can’t charge the ball, you guarantee a run, move the trail runner into scoring position with two out, and play for a two run inning. Chances are Kawasaki is going to hit a ground ball somewhere and it’s important to stay out of the double play. Not bunting in these two situations makes no sense to me.
In the two cases, a bunt would have accomplished more than what transpired. In the first, Kawasaki hit a sac fly. Great. We scored a run. But we could have scored a run AND moved the trail runner into scoring position. Wasted opportunity. In the second, Kawasaki hit into a double play and ended the inning. Even worse.
If I look at the current starting nine, at the very least the Jays should be bunting in this situation with either Kawasaki or Izturis at the plate. I might even do it with others like Davis or Bonifacio depended on the situation.
Everyone in the lineup save maybe the 3-4-5 hitters should be capable of pulling off this play on a major league team, in my opinion. The Tampa Bay Rays use this play all the time and have more wins in the past five years then any other team besides the Yankees and Phillies. With a stuttering offence, it’s time to take the guaranteed runs when they are there.