Sean Fitz-Gerald has the answer to the question on every Blue Jays fan’s mind over at the Athletic: Are Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez still cool?
Next week is “prospect week” for Keith Law at ESPN.com, and he primed us for it this week with his farm system rankings, which… aren’t terribly kind to the Blue Jays. Although the team ranks 21st (up from 25 last year), he says that the depletion from the big Anthopoulos deals of 2015 and “a sudden shift toward a conservative draft approach in 2016, has strip-mined this system in a way that might make any recovery slow.” Fingers crossed that the conservative drafting was about system-filling in the near term and won’t last forever. Fingers also crossed on the big bright spot he singles out, too: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
I’ll leave Keith’s comments on Guerrero behind the paywall, but they’re almost as glowing as the ones longtime reader @EricHartman sent to me from an Eric Longenhagen chat at FanGraphs this week: “I’ve spoken with multiple sources over the last week that think Vlad Jr. is in the big leagues before he’s 21 and/or that he’d go 1-1 in this year’s draft.” (Swoon! Though on the negative side he also basically called Rowdy Tellez and Harold Ramirez non-prospects, which… isn’t exactly uncommon.)
Speaking of prospects, over at Jays Journal, Keegan Matheson tells us which youngsters have been invited to the big camp this spring with the Blue Jays. And now so will I: it’s Rowdy Tellez, Reese McGuire, Conner Greene, Dwight Smith Jr., Tim Mayza, Wil Browning, and Jon Berti. Now, before you freak out, guys who are already on the 40-man will be there regardless — and that means Anthony Alford, Ryan Borucki, Lourdes Gurriel, Richard Urena, Harold Ramirez, etc. (The Jays Journal piece also looks at the club’s recent announcement of minor league appointments, which isn’t terribly notable, save for the fact that Devon White will be the hitting coach at Buffalo(!!!).)
More prospect stuff, as MLB.com ranks Reese McGuire as the number six catcher prospect in baseball, which… isn’t so great, actually. If he figures out how to hit he could really be something, but for now we’re told he “makes consistent contact but has yet to show any ability to drive the ball.”
Hitting wasn’t a problem for Rowdy Tellez in 2016, but the bar is real high at first base, and he remains a polarizing prospect among evaluators. MLB.com has him at sixth among first base prospects.
Some great stuff, as always, from BP Toronto, as Mike Passador looks at how the Jays can get the most out of Steve Pearce — a guy who can be very valuable if he’s kept healthy. Meanwhile, Josh Howsam echoes what I’ve been saying lately (unless he wrote it first!), which is that the Jays cannot enter the season with their left field situation what it is.
Over at the Toronto Star, Rosie Dimanno rambles her way through something. I don’t know.
A bunch of stuff from Sportsnet: Arden Zwelling looks at the Jays’ Rule 5 pickup, Glen Sparkman, who the club hopes can be another Biagini-like success story, and he also dives into what the team can expect from José Bautista in 2017. Meanwhile, Ben Nicholson-Smith talks to Rowdy Tellez, Michael Grange looks at Bautista’s limp free agent adventure, while the Tao of Stieb waxes on what the return of Bautista means.
One more from Arden, as he talks to Steve Pearce about his health (Pearce’s that is!) and the upcoming season.
Matthew Cullen of CBC.ca lists out eight “must see” games on the Blue Jays’ schedule this season.
Back to MLB.com, as Matt Kelly reports that José Bautista is expected to play for the Dominican Republic in the upcoming WBC — which I believe stands for “Who Be Carin’?”
Matt W of Bluebird Banter notes that it’s been a quiet winter for minor league free agents, too.
Over at the Blue Jay Hunter, Ian looks at how the projection systems are suggesting a bounce back season for José Bautista is in the cards.
Lastly, we discussed this a little on Thursday’s podcast, but J.P. Arencibia has retired from baseball. Josh Johnson, too. What a world!!