The Daily Duce: Wednesday, March 30th

Daily Duce

The Blue Jays got Ross Atkins “on the first hop” says some enterprising Toronto Sun headline writer seemingly trying to cast dark clouds across Mark Shapiro’s first and biggest hiring. Atkins was interviewed for the Phillies job in mid-October, writes Bob Elliott — something Jon Heyman reported on October 9th at CBS Sports. Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweeted on September 15th that Atkins had been interviewed for the Angels’ job, too. (Both interviews were mentioned by Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star when Atkins was hired by the Jays in early December). So… apparently he was actually hired on the second hop. I’m not sure where we’re going with this, but I could guess.

Oh, and look at that, elsewhere in the Sun it’s Steve Simmons saying that it “will take time” to get to know and “to believe in” Atkins. For who? Him? Anyone too dumb to see through the negative swells the Sun appears to be trying to stoke here? Because who possibly cares?

As noted in last night’s Encarnacion piece, Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star also has an Akins piece — a straight interview — and it’s pretty great! Especially the praise for John Gibbons and his open mind about what some might call analytics (but that Atkins says he’ll simply call “information”). Though it’s true that Atkins doesn’t quite yet seem fully comfortable with the media aspect of his job. You can say “we,” Ross, when you’re referring to the organization! Even if you didn’t happen to be there when the things you’re talking about happened.

“It definitely wasn’t easy, but I haven’t made a better decision in my short career,” says Aaron Sanchez to Arden Zwelling of Sportsnet, referring to his strict offseason workout and diet regimen. Obviously it’s paid off, as he’s been sensational this spring (albeit against spring training-calibre competition), and has forced the Blue Jays’ hand as far as giving him a rotation spot goes (have you heard????).

At BP Toronto, Tammy Rainey devises a way that, by using the All-Star break, the occasional spot start, and smartly lining up his starts to fall on certain off-days, the Jays can manage Sanchez’s innings over the course of the season so that he can stay in the rotation the whle year and doesn’t have any kind of giant increase that would require him to be shut down. Hmmm.

Elsewhere at BP Toronto, Joshua Howsam must have been pleased by the news this week, as he argued — convincingly — that the Jays would have been much better off trading Sanchez rather than using him as their fourth reliever (which is where he would have slotted), given the packages teams received for big time relievers this winter.

Not everybody thinks this is going to work out so great, though, as Dave Schoenfield of ESPN.com concludes: “Prediction for Sanchez? I love the arm, but I just don’t see enough evidence that his repertoire plays up as a starter. I think he does end up back in the bullpen by August, and that’s likely where he settles in long term.”

More Sanchez, as Gregor Chisholm of BlueJays.com writes that the youngster seems poised for a breakout 2016, while Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star talks to the scout who signed him (Blake Crosby) about the competitive fire Aaron showed from an early age.

Some great stuff from Shi Davidi of Sportsnet, as he gets Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Josh Donaldson to talk about each other in a piece you’re only going to wish was longer.

Elsewhere from Shi, he looks at the still-to-come roster decisions for the Jays, which will see John Gibbons name a closer and a fourth outfielder on Wednesday, in particular. To that end, he also looks at Darrell Ceciliani’s excellent camp, which has forced the Jays to go all the way down to the wire before deciding to option him to Buffalo so they don’t lose Ezequiel Carrera. *COUGH*

More from Sportsnet, where, in lieu of a game to recap on Tuesday, Mike Wilner breaks down the way he sees the Jays’ bullpen and rotation composition shaking out. He has Pat Venditte and Ryan Tepera fighting for the last bullpen spot (with Arnold Leon and Joe Biagini being “relative locks” because the organization will lose them if not). Mike Also has a big section on Jesus Montero in his Monday recap, in which he sees a player who “still could have a strong future ahead of him,” which… uh… let’s not go nuts. Let’s also please never use OPS again (I mean, it’s fuzzy enough at the best of times, but on a guy in the PCL with a .404 BABIP??).

Back to BP Toronto, where Matt Gwin explains why he loves to hate Kevin Pillar (and why we should probably be careful about using just one year of defensive data before being certain he’s elite). Meanwhile, Dave Church writes an appreciation of RA Dickey, and Greg Wisniewski looks into whether Edwin Encarnacion is a slow starter — and the result (his “inconsistent consistency”) may surprise you.

Interesting stuff from Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com, as he looks at the sense of urgency surrounding the Jays in 2016.

More from MLB.com/BlueJays.com, as Gregor Chisholm tells us to keep our eyes on Conner Greene, and that Andy Burns’ strong spring has likely earned him an eventual call-up. Gregor also stresses the importance of JA Happ and Marco Estrada eating innings for the Jays, and talks extensively with John Gibbons about pitching depth. Meanwhile, Mike Rosenbaum gives us five questions with Rowdy Tellez, and looks specifically at the prospects remaining in the Jays’ system.

“They’ve got to have short memories and nerves of steel,” says John Gibbons about closers — a role he has, of course, yet to say that Drew Storen will be occupying this year *COUGH* — according to Ken Fidlin in the National Post.

Back to the Toronto Sun and Bob Elliott, where he tells us about Russell Martin’s painful transition to catching (in his second year as a Dodger), about Robinzon “traded for Jose Bautista” Diaz’s return to the Mattick Complex in Dunedin last week, and about Bautista holding court with reporters on myriad topics as camp winds down — an annual tradition.

A great story from Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star, as he looks at how a big league bat gets made — and, specifically, one made in Carleton Place, Ontario, like the ones Miguel Cabrera uses, by the Ontario Maple Bat Corporation (aka the “Sam Bat,” named after the company’s founder, Sam Holman).

Elsewhere at the Star we’ve got several from the purple pen of Rosie DiManno. She tells us that John Gibbons better not stumble out of the gate, that RA Dickey is about more than just baseball, about the versatility of Andy Burns, the never-give-up story of Chris Colabello, and how Troy Tulowitzki is happy being out of the spotlight on the Jays’ veteran-rich roster.

Interesting stuff, as always, from FanGraphs, as they give us visualization of defensive projections for every team in the big leagues (hint: the Jays are strong up the middle), and Rob Arthur of FiveThirtyEight (and, as we learned the other week, a statistical consultant for the Jays!) joins their FanGraphs Audio podcast.

Tim Healey of Sports On Earth looks at the Jays as a case study in prospecting, with the once-huge pedigrees of Justin Smoak and now Jesus Montero competing, and behind, the unheralded Chris Colabello and Edwin Encarnacion.

Lyle Spencer of MLB.com looks at how the Blue Jays and the Kansas City Royals ended up 1-2 in a whole lot of clutch hitting stats last season — something I’d mostly, though not entirely, have to attribute (at least in the Jays’ case) to the fact that they were simply really good at hitting, regardless of the situation.

Jake Sinclair of Bluebird Banter wonders if anybody else is excited about Ryan Goins, which… not really? He suggests that Goins could even be an interesting trade piece for the Jays at mid-season, give the lack of playable middle infielders with his kind of glove, and the Jays’ reluctance to move more prospects, which… maybe? I won’t rule it out, but I’m still not ready to buy Goins’ second half at the plate (which was really more of a relatively short burst than a whole half season).

Keegan Matheson of Jays Journal looks at DJ Davis, who is facing a make-or-break season as his prospect status hangs in the balance, one figures.

At the Blue Jay Hunter, Ian takes a look at the (surprising?) evolution from John Gibbons, Hillenbrand-fighter, into the lovable Gibby. (I always thought Gibbers was pretty much the greatest — didn’t everybody??)(Oh… right.)

Great stuff from Grant Robertson of the Globe and Mail, as he talks to and tells us about Josue Peley, the Blue Jays’ first official translator under new MLB rules requiring that each club have someone to translate Spanish.

Lastly, how’s this for a weird one? Perhaps because the Jays are set to head to Montreal this weekend to face the Red Sox, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe pulls out a humdinger of a rumour involving Montreal that never came to fruition: that at one point when Jim Beattie was running the Expos (1995-2001), he offered Pedro Martinez and Vladimir Guerrero to the Yankees for Derek Jeter. Evidently the Yankees said no. (Beattie, it should be noted, is currently a scout for the Blue Jays — somebody find him and ask him about it!)

  • Sandman

    It appears management has given Gibby free rein to deploy resources as he sees fit.

    Having Storen close would have saved future arbitration dollars on Osuna. Yet Gibby had the freedom to pick either guy.

    Thought the Sanchez decision made sense too.

    I liked AA and I miss him. But it appears the new team makes sensible decisions and does not meddle.
    That’s about all we can ask.

    • ErnieWhitt

      I feel like this situation will sort itself out. The likelihood of one guy sticking back there for the entire season is low. Personally I would love it if the Jays would use Osuna as their Dellin Betances this season in an effort to maximize his innings. He can go more than one inning which you can’t do with Storen. Still.. good problem to have vs last year where we kept gifting games at the end of the season when they couldn’t find anyone to throw strikes.

    • ErnieWhitt

      a bit.. Cecil and Vinditte are lefties and if I recall correctly Tepaera, though a righty, had some pretty good numbers on lefties last season. I could look them up but…

      • Philbert

        I’ve read a lot about Tepera being an option instead of another lefty, but last year was the only year he’s had reverse splits. I don’t think he really fits that role. I would prefer Venditte.

      • Dabbles

        Vinditte was just sent down according to Bluejays.com so just Cecil.

        “Toronto also announced on Wednesday that Ezequiel Carrera made the team as a fourth outfielder over Junior Lake, while right-handers Ryan Tepera, Joe Biagini and Arnold Leon will fill the final three spots in the bullpen.”

        I assume that means Vinditte was sent down as he wasnt in the bullpen before the final 3 spots.

  • Warren_

    let’s look at those Tepera numbers: .137 BA against lefties with a .568 OPS. Good stuff.

    The only concern is his 1.50 strikeouts to walks ratio when pitching to lefties. He didn’t walk any RHBs in 69 plate appearances in 2015, but he walked 6 LHBs in 59 plate appearances.

  • Sandman

    @ErnieWhitt
    Agree there is a good chance Storen assumes the role as some point.

    All that’s happening here is that Gibby is being loyal to the guy who was so good for him last year.
    He’s going to keep giving him the ball until he has a reason not to…and he has no such reason on day one. (Astros may make the same decision with Giles/Gregerson)

    My main point was that management seems to be leaving those types of decisions to Gibby..and that is a good thing.

  • Jays of Thunder

    I haven’t been commenting much through the dregs of spring, but this seems as good a place as any to say:

    Stoeten, you’re killing it with this move to the new site. It’s great to have the voices of Stacey May Fowles, Drew and Lott adding their voices here.

    And I’m sure you’ll sort out the comments.

    One request: keep us in the loop a bit more! I can’t speak for everyone, but I know I’d appreciate the odd word to let folks know what’s coming down the pipe or responding to concerns with the new platform. (And apologies if you’ve done this and I missed it)

  • DAKINS

    “Pedro Martinez and Vladimir Guerrero to the Yankees for Derek Jeter”

    If I’m the Expos, I’m glad that deal never came to fruition. That is one hell of a lop-sided trade.