Layin’ Down The Law – Sanchez, Bichette, Smoak, AA and the Twins

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It’s been a while since I did one of these, and I’m not even entirely sure why. But what I *do* know is that there were a few Jays-related tidbits, and some that were at least tangientally related to the Jays, in this week’s Keith Law chat over at Keith’s personal site, the Dish, and I think we’d do well to take a look.

So… uh… let’s!

Brian: Have you been able to see much of Aaron Sanchez? I’m curious if his mechanics have changed sufficiently that your concerns have been mitigated. He has certainly been a delight to watch this season.
Klaw: I discussed him in the top 25 under 25. His mechanics are not very different and I’d still like to see his stride longer for his long-term health. His body, however, is very different and I think that’s the cause of his jump in performance this year.

Oh yeah, Keith’s ESPN.com piece on the top 25 players under the age of 25. Sanchy made the list, ranking 14th, just behind Jurickson Profar, and ahead of Carlos Martinez, Christian Yelich, and Nomar Mazara. High praise!

Sanchez was the only Blue Jays player to make the list, as Marcus Stroman (who one assumes would have ranked, given that Law mentions that him and Sanchez look set to become the Jays’ top starters for the next several years) is already into his age-25 year, and Roberto Osuna seems dead set on being a reliever.

Keith obviously still doesn’t like his shorter stride, but the alarm bells don’t seem to be quite as loud as they were in previous years. Gotta love that “man weight” Sanchez put on. Who knew that a spring training story about a guy in the “best shape of his life” would actually prove significant?

DH: Boba Fett, sorry, Bo Bichette is off to a good start. You’ve been fairly bullish. What are the skills/results you’ll look for to indicate he’s on track to being the player you think he can be?
Klaw: If he keeps up the contact rate, I’ll be satisfied. But remember his brother, whom I was very down on as a draft prospect (not even on my top 100), had a huge GCL stint, and hasn’t done anything since.

I’ve barely written anything about Bichette, the Jays’ second-rounder from June’s draft, because it’s the damn Gulf Coast League, but with the big caveats Keith mentions, he sure as hell has quickly turned into a prospect worth keeping a close eye on. In 19 games he’s got 32 hits, 13 of which have gone for extra bases (seven doubles, two triples, four dongs), and is slashing .427/.446/.733.

He is — if we’re bothering to pay this much attention to a small sample stat line for a guy in rookie ball — probably striking out more than you’d like (19.3%), and not walking a whole lot (just 5 BB in 83 PA), but shit. Might as well swing if those are the results you’re getting, eh?

And maybe we shouldn’t be *too* surprised by this. After all, this is, he says, the organization he felt was the best fit for him — so much so that he “turned down” other teams’ offers to draft him (i.e. he made it clear he’d go to college if they picked him, one assumes).

Oren: Justin Smoak – he’s bad, right?
Klaw: He’s one tick above replacement level. You don’t give that a two-year deal.

Pffft — it’s two years plus an option!

OK, yeah, he’s not exactly the guy that screams extension candidate. But I’ll say this: he’s getting paid to be a one-win player, which he is, and I really do think there’s value in the certainty of locking him up. If they hadn’t, what do the Jays do with that spot this winter? They could take a flyer on a quad-A type for less money and cross their fingers, but that’s not ideal. They could pay more for someone better, if they could convince someone to take their money to be a swingman-type 1B/DH who might not get everyday at-bats, but is that really the roster spot they want to spend more on? Or they could pay Smoak, or someone a whole lot like him, about what they’re paying.

Nobody’s going to argue that he’s great, but a guy who wants to be here, wants the role, gives you certainty that — with practically half of your roster due to hit free agency — you at least have someone for that spot? I do get it.

Jim: You said earlier this year Beede’s velo was down, is it back? Has Bickford improved the breaking ball?
Klaw: His velo was down because he was throwing sinkers, not four-seamers. He’s throwing the four-seamer again, so the velo is there. Bickford you saw at the Futures Game – his velocity really is down and I don’t think there’s good enough secondaries there. He’s very available in trade.

Young Beedah update! Guess he’s doin’ alright. And Big Bick! Blasts from the pasts!

Yeah, I think I’m still OK with the compensation pick we got for not signing Beede (Marcus Stroman) and the fact that the extra pick for not signing Bickford allowed them to roll the dice on Jeff Hoffman. Yeah… still very OK.

JG: In your humble opinion, who’s the best person (keeping Kim Ng in mind) that the Twins could bring in as the GM?
Klaw: Aaron Gleeman mentioned Jason McLeod on Twitter yesterday, and I seconded it. He’s got a good track record of success and has worked in several analytically-minded organizations, so he should be able to come in and help build that department. (I view that as the single most important criterion for the Twins in hiring a new GM. If you can’t build that capability, you can’t be the GM.)

Aaaand that’s why it’s so adorable when folks in this city start automatically assuming that Alex Anthopoulos will be a perfect fit for the Twins’ new vacancy. Despite Gregg Zaun’s famous dipshittery about him being “a sabermetrician, a bean counter,” Alex was never a heavy, heavy stat guy — and one wonders, if we’re being honest, if anyone so entwined with Paul Beeston would ever be.

I heard that from analytics interns; we inferred that from Jay Sartori’s departure (albeit to what must have been a good gig at Apple — though he’s returned to baseball now, running the Tigers’ analytics department) and the fact that he was never really replaced; and we see that from the changes the Shapiro and Atkins regime made almost as soon as they arrived, beefing up analytics, promoting Joe Sheehan to be the club’s newly-created Director Of Analytics, and modernizing the organization in terms of sport science, psychology, and “high performance.”

None of this means that the Twins won’t look to him, but they’re already an organization with a pretty good scouting department, and Alex just doesn’t seem the guy to fix their deficiencies.

“They need to build an internal analytics department, first and foremost,” KLaw said in response to a later question. “You can’t operate in MLB right now unless you have that, if only for competitive intelligence purposes.”

Indeed.