Jayson Stark of ESPN.com writes about a pair of potential rule changes MLB is considering implementing for 2017: eliminating the need to throw four pitches for an intentional walk and raising the strike zone by two inches. The first one is pretty benign, but the second change would be massive, and because of that it seems unlikely that we’ll see it. That’s good news, because as Nick Ashbourne of Yahoo! Sports points out, a higher strike zone would be terrible news for Marcus Stroman. Though, actually, it would be awful news for a whole lot of the Jays’ ground ball heavy pitching staff (and probably not great for those who like to work up in the zone earlier).
Another one from Nick takes a look at how the Jays are going against the grain — perhaps exploiting a market inefficiency? — by building a bullpen with a lot of finesse arms, rather than going the power-arm route.
Great stuff from Matt Gwin of BP Toronto, as he tells us that the time is now for the Jays to make a decision on Dalton Pompey. It’s a notion that I don’t precisely agree with — I’d have no complaints if Pompey ended up back in Buffalo to start the year — though the basic premise holds. There just isn’t a whole lot more development that Pompey can get out of Triple-A, one figures. Ideally he’ll look great this spring and force the Jays’ hand anyway.
Elsewhere at BP Toronto, Mike Passador looks at what PECOTA has to say about the 2017 Blue Jays, which is not very good (as you’ll already know if you saw the clickbait-y Bluebird Banter headline). To be honest, these projections are so hilariously low on the Jays’ starting pitching that it doesn’t even feel like they’re worth discussing. This is not me being a homer: the five Jays starters combined are projected to just 4.2 WARP. I could write a whole thing detailing some of the reasons why — Aaron Sanchez’s short track record, Marco Estrada’s FIP-busting ability to induce bad contact, too much pre-2015 J.A. Happ’s mid-2015 rebirth — but… meh. That’s just silly.
Something rather interesting for Jays fans is going on in Tony Blengino’s FanGraphs report on 2016 contact quality among AL catchers. No, it’s not the fact that Russell Martin’s adjusted contact rate ranks fourth, it’s that Chris Iannetta tops the list. Iannetta was connected with the Jays several times this winter, and though I can’t for the life of me find the link, and so I could definitely be wrong, I’m pretty sure there was a report in the last week or so that he was their top choice as backup catcher before he went to Arizona and the Jays signed Jarrod Saltalamacchia instead (to a deal that will pay him more in the big leagues than Iannetta’s will, but that’s technically a minor league deal with an invite). Why is this interesting? Because Blengino’s contact quality report on DHs absolutely loved Kendrys Morales, and gave us the boldest prediction of the winter: “a healthy Morales outperforms both Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, for far less money, in 2017.” Do these two things suggest that Blengino’s adjustments match up with the Jays’ internal approach? Maybe, and if so, it means that we should definitely keep paying attention.
The Fan’s Alex Seixeiro tweets that Jays pitching coach Pete Walker told Prime Time Sports this week that there is a strong possibility that Joe Biagini will be used as a multi-inning reliever this season. This makes all the sense, frankly. Walker also noted that Biagini will be stretched out this spring, with the aim partly being to have him work on his changeup. And while he could end up an important piece of rotation depth for the club, given that he was a starter until last year, he’s a bigger asset in the bullpen — especially because his stuff plays up in short stretches (I’m pretty sure). Getting multiple innings out of him could be huge.
Aside: The worst thing about there being so little actual news this time of year is that most sites continue to churn out content regardless. Not this one, apparently! And it’s just… I dunno… I appreciate the work that such things take, and not to shit on those who go deeper and really know their shit and follow the system, but, no, I don’t want to know who Writer X thinks is the 36th best Jays prospect based on some amalgam of what other sites are saying and what the stat line shows, or “year in review” or “what to expect” from certain player pieces. Which is why you won’t usually find those here. FYI!
Sports Illustrated grades the Jays’ offseason a C+, and while it would be a little too homerish to fiercely dispute that, the piece talks about the Jays as though Justin Smoak and Ezequiel Carrera are basically going to be everyday players, or something close to it. I know that’s the conventional take on this roster, but I really don’t see it working out that way. Steve Pearce is a much better option at first base, and Carrera will lose his job very quickly if asked to hit against right-handed pitching regularly. Interestingly, at ESPN.com, Jim Bowden gives the Jays’ offseason a B grade, praising them for the Bautista contract, Pearce and Kendrys Morales, and for the recent add of Joe Smith.
Ian Hunter tweets a gem from Marco Estrada’s appearance on Andrew Walker’s Fan 590 show this afternoon: “I usually just throw what Martin calls. He’s the one tricking batters back there.” IN RUSS WE TRUST!
Great stuff from Arden Zwelling at Sportsnet, as he goes deep on the fascinating Babe Ruth of Japan, Shohei Otani.
Sportsnet also tells us that Kevin Pillar will be on the cover of the Canadian version of RBI Baseball this season, which… OK.
Interesting one from Jason Lee of Jays Journal, as he makes the case that the Blue Jays have made a mistake by not exploring the Asian market as much as they can — and should be.
Lastly, in case you missed it on the Twitter machine earlier, I’ll be contributing some stuff to the Athletic this season. It’s a subscription-based site, and you can get yourself a subscription here. Just like the stuff that I do, and will continue to do, for VICE Sports, you’ll always be able to find links here at Blue Jays Nation.