Grading Blue Jays performances with a quarter of the season in the books!

Jose Bautista
One of these must be the quarter pole! Photo Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The 2016 Blue Jays season crossed the quarter mark this week, and our friends over at SB Nation’s venerable Jays blog, Bluebird Banter, decided to take the opportunity to provide letter grades for each Blue Jays player based on their performance so far.

Well, two can play at that game! And since I figured I’d offer up some different takes than the folks over there, I decided to take a crack at it. But I assure you, the rationales for these grades may only make sense to me. Have at it!

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Marco Estrada, A+: Estrada’s 2.95 ERA over the last calendar year ranks him 5th in the American League, 15th in baseball, and right between Noah Syndergaard and Danny Salazar. By RA9-WAR he’s been the seventh best pitcher in baseball over that span, and fourth best in the American League, trailing only Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, and David Price. I believe. (BBB Grade: A)

Roberto Osuna, A+: Osuna hasn’t been perfect, but he’s the only Jays reliever who can at least see it in the distance. I don’t even want to look at the numbers. He’s cold comfort. Shit, he’s been so good it almost makes me want to write something impossibly painfully corny like “Osuna Matata”. Almost. (BBB Grade: A)

Gavin Floyd, A: I scoffed when they signed him to a big league deal in the off-season, but it took Aaron Sanchez curbstomping the Grapefruit League to keep Floyd from winning a rotation spot, then he’s gone out and posted a 27.6% strikeout rate and a 5.3% walk rate as a reliever, leading the team in K-BB%. More importantly, I’m at the point where I almost don’t feel nervous when he comes in. (BBB Grade: A)

Aaron Sanchez, A: The walks are a little high, but that’s just who he is. Sanchez has produced a Stroman-esque groundball rate, and a better strikeout rate than his teammate and best friend. In fact, Sanchez currently has the highest K/9 of any stint he’s had since pitching at Dunedin in 2013. I don’t think he’s yet a finished product, and I’m sure there will be bumps in the road, but so far, so good. (BBB Grade: A)

Michael Saunders, A: Playing way, way better than anybody would have expected — even those who thought he’d be good if he could just stay healthy. Jay Who-ce? The defence isn’t the greatest, but what kind of monster would hold that against him too much? (BBB Grade: B+)

Josh Donaldson, A-: He’s, like, a shade behind exactly where you’d want or expect him to be. He’s fine. He’s actually great. I can’t nitpick. (BBB Grade: B)

J.A. Happ, A-: The peripherals just aren’t what you’d expect to see from a guy who has had the tremendous results we’ve seen from Happ so far. I don’t know that he’s yet proven he’s an Estrada- or Dickey-level FIP-buster, and the drop in strikeouts is maybe a bit of a concern. But he’s been so very solid for the Jays, and has quickly made most of the haters forget about how enraged they were when he signed… for now. (BBB Grade: A)

Justin Smoak, A-: He has taken Chris Colabello’s title of BABIP king, let’s just hope he hasn’t taken anything else of Bing Bong’s. HEYO! “Jokes” aside, Smoak has been really impressive so far, and while I’d expect the crazy walk rate and BABIP to go down, his ISO is significantly off of where it was last season. I could see that going up, meaning that, though he’d get there in a weird way, and he’s obviously a player with big limitations, the seeds of a pretty damn nice season may already have been sown. (BBB Grade: B+)

Jose Bautista, B: This grade is largely a function of his defence, because he just isn’t great in the field — never has been — and now he doesn’t have the cannon arm to make up for that fact. On the other hand, he’s Jose Bautista. Even though it feels like he hasn’t taken off at the plate yet, you look at his numbers and (with apologies to those who still look at batting average for some reason) they’re all there. (BBB Grade: B-)

Joe Biagini, B: It’s only been 15 innings, but they’ve been pretty nice. I dunno. (BBB Grade: A)

R.A. Dickey, C+: Take away Dickey’s first three starts and you still include a six run blowup against the White Sox and the four earned scored on him by the Rays this week, yet the overall picture improves. At least as far as ERA goes — 3.56, compared to 4.50 on the season. His strikeouts have gone down while he’s seen a small uptick in home runs, so his FIP hasn’t been great over that span, but FIP isn’t exactly Dickey’s calling card anyway. Plus his hard and soft contact rates have moved in the right direction. He’s been Dickey-ish, in other words, which is fine by me. (BBB Grade: D-)

Marcus Stroman, C+: Maybe this just reflects my expectations for him, and maybe I should give him a bit of a break for some of the inherited runners of his that other pitchers have allowed to blow up his ERA a little bit. But the strikeout numbers continue to underwhelm, so he’s been good, not great. Of course, that just means the best is yet to come. (BBB Grade: A-)

Kevin Pillar, C: Pillar plays a premium defensive position, which is a good thing because he still can’t hit. For every hot streak that gets the moron brigade crowing about how haters like me have overlooked him comes the inevitable cold spell to balance it out. He’s already provided half the defensive value he did last year, according to the metrics, so I have to give him credit for that, even though it certainly doesn’t seem sustainable. But that was somewhat suspected, and ultimately he gets docked because the bat has been a disappointment, even given the low bar. (BBB Grade: B-)

Jesse Chavez, C-: Home runs have been a real problem for Chavez, and and it certainly feels right now like he’s been a bit of a disaster because he’s given up runs in three of his last four appearances, but he was actually looking pretty good heading into this little speedbump. He was sitting on a 1.69 ERA, 3.38 FIP, and 2.27 xFIP heading into May 8th, and overall he has limited walks and has 17 Ks over 14.1 innings. I’m not sure about using him in high leverage spots at the moment, but he’s really been fairly OK. (BBB Grade: D-)

Edwin Encarnacion, C-: Edwin will be fine, but he hasn’t exactly been Edwin-esque just yet. It’s sometimes easy to forget that he only had 25 plate appearances this spring, so he didn’t exactly come into the season hot and ready to go, but the results are the results. Still, it’s Edwin. This “C-” is just a placeholder. (BBB Grade: D)

Josh Thole, C-: There are 32 catchers in the league with more than 20 plate appearances and a wRC+ of 75 or lower. There are 13 within five points of Thole’s woeful 29, and nine who’ve been worse — one of them, sadly, is Russell Martin. In other words: catchers are bad. Backup catchers are especially bad. And so, yeah, Thole is bad. He’s also fine. (BBB Grade: F)

Ryan Goins, D: I can’t exactly give him a good grade here, but what the hell did we expect? For a lot of Jays fans the inevitable answer there is “too much.” That thing from last year when he learned to take a walk seems, unfortunately, to have been a mirage, but his glove still works. (BBB Grade: F)

Troy Tulowitzki, D: Tulo shouldn’t get bonus points for looking like he might be showing signs of life, but damn it if I’m not giving them to him. Partly he lands above an F because he plays great defence, partly it’s because he’s been better since about the start of May — his contact rate on pitches in the zone is nearly 20 points higher since April 30th than it was at that point — and partly it’s because we might, unfortunately, need to readjust our baseline for Tulo, who still hasn’t found his stroke since hip surgery ended his 2014 season. Grasping here, aren’t I? (BBB Grade: F)

Brett Cecil, D-: Whereas Drew Storen’s high BABIP is explained by an alarming drop in velocity and his getting blasted by hard contact, Brett Cecil’s fugly .421 mark feels like it holds a bit more bad luck in it. He hasn’t been good, but the quality of the contact he’s given up is hardly alarming (though the line drive rate is high), and not much beyond the results — at least numbers-wise — looks off. This grade is maybe more a reflection of my hope than anything he actually deserves, though. (BBB Grade: F)

Drew Storen, F: I was a little nervous about Storen before ever seeing him throw a pitch for the Blue Jays. That said, the numbers over his career all look good, and his blip at the end of 2015 seemed somewhat reasonably explainable. But he sure hasn’t proven that instinct wrong. Maybe in time he’ll learn to be better with his diminished velocity, but until he does, it’s not looking good. In fact, so far it’s looked like a disaster. (BBB Grade: F)

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Russell Martin, Incomplete: Look, maybe this is just me being a homer, because I know an incomplete seems odd for a guy who’s been a regular on the field, but I just don’t think Martin has been right, physically, and I just can’t flunk him, even if that’s surely what his numbers say he deserves. It’s been awful, but I don’t believe it’s the real Martin we’ve been seeing. Or, at the very least, I don’t want to believe. (BBB Grade: F)

“Zeke” Carrera, N/A: He’s been great… in 48 plate appearances. Not much to say here. (BBB Grade: A)

Darwin Barney, N/A: Forgive me, but I’m not real interested analysing the performance of the soon-to-be fourth string second baseman. (BBB Grade: B)