The Daily Duce: Wednesday, March 16th



Over at the Toronto Star, Richard Griffin writes that Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion have done the Jays a favour by putting off contract talks until next winter — and how can he be wrong, really? It’s not like their value can go up (except for maybe Encarnacion, if he stays totally healthy and just as monstrous in 2016, which…  how’s that going so far?), but it can certainly go down. Interestingly, he also suggests that Jose Bautista’s ask was for six years and $165-million, which included this coming season (i.e. rip up that $14-million option and give him a big raise). If they had some money to pay Jay Bruce, maybe that is indeed a way to add some up-front dollars to overall deals for Jose and Edwin, and mitigate what they’d have to pay on the back end. Time is ticking to make good on such a scheme, though, and it doesn’t sound like it’s going to happen.

Great stuff from Tammy Rainey of BP Toronto, as she goes deep into the debate over who should be the Jays’ lead-off hitter, and talks a whole lot more sense about it than I usually do, concluding, “Settle the heck down! The only way that lead-off will be a major issue is if Gibby installs Pillar, watches him go back to a .269 OBP and ignores it.” I still would rather not see them waste run-scoring opportunities by batting a guy who doesn’t get on base enough ahead of Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, et at., but it’s true that it’s going to work out fine unless ol’ Gibbers is particularly negligent. (I guess it just erodes my confidence in his ability to not be negligent on this front slightly when he doesn’t recognize how much more important the ability to get on base is to other lead-off considerations).

Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star takes a look at the lead-off question, too, and does some outside of the box thinking, suggesting that maybe Jose Bautista should get the job. On that point, and on the suggestion of some (and which I’ve probably made in the past myself) I say no. According to The Book, the lead-off hitter comes to the plate with the bases empty 64% of the time, and the percentage for the next-lowest spot in the order jumps to 56%. I hate speaking in RBIs, because it’s a terribly statistic, but it applies here: you don’t want to take away that many RBI opportunities from such a big RBI guy (i.e. an elite offensive player with power).

Back to BP Toronto, where Joshua Howsam has a great interview with Marco Estrada, who says he’s ready for more success in 2016. In it, Estrada says that he hears people suggest that he’s able to throw his fast by guys because of spin rate, but he insists — and hitters tell him, he says — that it’s simply because his changeup is so good. He also praises Mark Buehrle, and says that Pete Walker and Russell Martin have been going over video of Estrada’s work with Dioner Navarro last year, trying to get a feel for why that was such a successful pairing, what kind of pitcher Marco is, and the sorts of sequences that really worked. Great stuff.

BP Toronto (formerly Blue Jays Plus) has been really terrific since the re-launch, and they’re looking to hire even more writers, too! Go give it shot, if that’s your thing!

More Kevin Pillar stuff, as Steve Buffery of the National Post (or at least that’s where this version of his piece landed) tells us that he’s having a much more relaxed camp this year — the benefit of knowing that he isn’t fighting for a job — and will be used somewhat sparingly, if only because John Gibbons wants to run him out there every day in 2016.

Pillar’s regular place at the top of the order when he’s played so far this spring should tell you everything you need to know about where John Gibbons is leaning regarding the lead-off spot, says Ben Nicholson-Smith in a camp-roundup post at Sportsnet (among other things). Michael Saunders, he notes, has yet to hit at the top of the lineup once.

Elsewhere at Sportsnet, Quinton Amundson is the first to reach the South Pole talk to Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who says that in a year’s time he expects to be all the way up in Double-A, and that he wants to be on the Jays’ roster before he turns 20. Great goals, and he’s a great talent, but… uh… good luck with that, Vladdy.

More from Sportsnet, as Shi Davidi looks at submariner Ben Rowan’s delivery (in both words and pictures), Mike Wilner tells us how outfielders Michael Saunders and Darrell Ceciliani have impressed so far this spring, the Tao of Stieb meditates on various spring things, including the outfield mix, Kevin Pillar’s power potential, and how Anthony Alfford maybe isn’t quite yet big-league — or even Triple-A — ready. Meanwhile, Jeff Blair speaks with Jesse Chavez, who is at peace with being back in the Jays organization, and with an outing on Tuesday where his location was just a bit off.

The Jays’ hitters, in particular Troy Tulowitzki, have faith in their pitching staff, writes Steve Buffery, this time for the Toronto Sun. That’s… good?

Richard Justice of takes a look at the Jays, and Josh Donaldson in particular, who says that he looks at this season as a chance to finish some unfinished business. No word on if that means getting the Angels’ pitching coach to finally… you know what? Nevermind.

At Bluebird Banter we’re told that Aaron Sanchez should start, because he can do it and he’s earned the right to do it, and hey! Look at those spring stats! Oh, and hey! Don’t look at those splits against lefties! Of course, Sanchez should be a starter, just not necessarily in the majors at first — especially not because of a few outings early in spring when a guy with his kind of heavy stuff can get on top of hitters a little bit more, I’d think, than once they get their act together a little better — ask Miguel Castro.

From JJ Cooper of Baseball America, we get “Conner Greene is acting like it’s his time,” which… that’s the whole problem, isn’t it? HEYO! (Some great stuff in there too about Jays prospects, and Rowdy Tellez and Anthony “preternatural plate discipline” Alford in particular, feasting on Mark Appel).

Speaking of prospects, an interesting non-Jays name to watch (and maybe even cheer for, in a weird way) is Aaron Judge, the supposed right-fielder-of-the-future for the New York Yankees. He ranks fourth on FanGraphs’ list of top Yankees prospects, but here’s hoping a strong season makes the suddenly-spendthrift Brian Cashman (the Yankees didn’t sign a single free agent to a major league contract this winter!) think twice about going hard after a certain free agent right fielder next winter, eh?

Speaking of FanGraphs (i): Craig Edwards takes a look at the teams with the most dead money on their books, and… uh… well, I’m sure Mark Shapiro will do better next time.

Dan Grant of Same Page Same Team goes deep into the battle for the Jays’ fifth starter spot, and comes out particularly bullish on Aaron Sanchez. Or… wait, yes. Bullish. (Just so used to writing a similar word that I had to double check myself there.)

Alden Gonzalez of informs us that Rob Rasmussen, who has been with the Angels this spring, saw time with the Jays last season (unless it was 2014 — I’m not actually going to bother to look), and was dealt to Seattle in the Mark Lowe trade, has retired from baseball at the age of 26. He just didn’t wanted to do it anymore, and wants to go back to school and get an MBA. Good on him. May the next chapter in his life be thrown so hard it goes over the backstop and sails into the crowd. *COUGH*

Lastly, I think I missed it the last time I did one of these, so let’s right this wrong: go check out John Lott’s excellent piece on Jays bullpen catcher — the other AA — Alex Andreopoulos over at Vice Sports. Even if I didn’t miss it in the last one, go read it again!