Hey, so did you hear the one a couple weeks back about how FanGraphs’ projections had the Blue Jays’ rotation ranked 16th in all of baseball! Ho ho ho, that sure was hilarious! (Except for, y’know, how it’s maybe not nearly as crazy as it sounds.)
But it turns out that (obviously) they did a whole bunch of power rankings as well — one for each position, in fact! And I’ve been thinking that, before we get so far into the season that this sort of season preview-ish content becomes completely irrelevant, it’s probably worth taking a tour around what the projections are saying about the rest of the roster.
So, for lack of anything else to say in this preamble, uh… let’s!
Catcher – Rank: 7th
- You may be thinking that ranking Russell Martin the seventh best catcher in baseball seems about right — and you’d actually be wrong! This is a good spot to once again remind you that these projections are about the entire group of players who are expected to play at each position for the club over the course of the year. Salty and Vitamin G are also factoring into this ranking, and they’re actually dragging Russell Martin down.
- Martin’s WAR is projected to 2.5, which puts him in a tie with Yadier Molina as having the sixth best individual projection. The Jays end up in seventh because the A’s and Astros project out better as groups.
- Fun fact: Sal Perez (2.7) is one of the five catchers projected to be better than Martin, though his Royals backups drag their overall ranking down to ninth.
- Man, Salty truly can’t hit — hey, but at least he can’t catch or throw, either! (According to Gideon Turk’s outstanding report at BP Toronto on why the Jays chose Ryan Goins over Melvin Upton, the Jays were also actively looking to upgrade on Saltalamacchia as part of their end-of-camp trade talks — we’d heard they were in the running to sign Derek Norris, for example — but with Salty’s contract being purchased and made guaranteed, Gideon says it’s not likely they continue to look.
- Money quote: “While some are leery of the term ‘winner’ in the sabermetric community, Martin make a pretty strong case for deserving the label. He’s competitive, a tireless worker, and he has the respect of teammates. When Martin began wearing the Zephyr Bionharness in 2014 in Pittsburgh, a wearable technology that monitors workload, a number of his teammates adopted the practice. He’s also simply a really good player one of the few catchers in the game to contribute on both sides of the ball.”
First Base – Rank: 23rd
- Oh. Right. This mess.
- Look, Justin Smoak’s WAR projection looks ugly, and for good reason, but I really do believe that he’s a guy where the exit velocities and “barrels” and the fact that first base defence (and “scoops,” in particular) maybe isn’t dealt with so well by the advanced metrics, and so there’s value there that the club sees and we don’t. Of course, such things could be used to justify just about any really fucking dumb contract extension. *COUGH*
- Oh, wait, that’s what Eno Sarris says here, too.
- Money quote: “The joke is that Justin Smoak has naked pictures of someone in the Blue Jays front office, since he’s basically been a replacement-level player for his entire career and Toronto opted to keep him around for two more years and $8.2 million. Maybe instead it’s that their in-house analytics like him more defensively at first base, see what Jeff Sullivan saw in Smoak’s batted-ball stats, and hope for more power going forward. Those things are more probable than leaked Snapchat images.”
- Hey, they have Rowdy Tellez making 35 plate appearances this year! (0.0 WAR, and as FG’s look at the Jays’ top prospects yesterday suggested, there remain a bunch of scouting types who don’t even think that’s going to happen.)
- Before we gripe too much about Smoak, let’s remember that this is not your older brother’s league full of hulking first basemen. The Jays’ group, despite the ugly ranking, are just a win behind the White Sox and José Abreu and the Mets and Lucas Duda. And just 0.1 WAR ahead of them are two of the best teams in the American League, the Red Sox and the Rangers. And behind them are some teams that will be decent, too: the Nationals, Rays, Pirates, Rockies, and Mariners. Even the A’s (24th) could surprise this season. So… they’re not exactly in bad company.
Third Base – Rank: 1st
- Fuck you, Manny Machado. Fuck you, trash birds.
- Money quote: “This may come as a shock, but Josh Donaldson is a really good player.”
Shortstop – Rank: 9th
- It feels wrong that Tulo is way down here, but looking at the names above him, it’s hard to argue. Simmons, Bogaerts, Crawford, Russell, Turner, Seager, Lindor, Correa. And yet, as I wrote earlier this week (when I called him the key to the Jays’ season), Tulo’s Statcast data at the plate shows that there’s still very possibly more in his bat than the last couple of seasons have indicated. If his projected .259/.328/.442 line is as light as I think it might be… look out.
- Uhhhh, on the other hand, the “curated” playing time projections has him getting 560 PA, which I’d love to believe. Which I’d love to believe. Which I’d love to believe.
- Tulo hasn’t batted that many times since 2011. [collar-pull.GIF]
- Money quote: “Tulowitzki remains an above-average defensive shortstop when he plays. And although his bat has slipped from its peak, there are still signs of thump. From last June through August, after Tulo came off the DL, he posted a 127 wRC+. Expect occasional flickers of that old greatness. Just enough to make you think that old Tulo is coming back for real. He’s probably not, but he’s still very good. That is, when his body lets him do what he does.”
Second Base – Rank: 11th
- Money quote: “If Devon Travis can stay healthy.”
Left Field – Rank: 24th
- Oh, shit, and the Jays released Melvin Upton which must totally blow a hole in even this meagre projection. Wait. Wait. Nope, they had him worth 0.1 WAR.
- They’ve only projected 161 plate appearances in left for Steve Pearce and Dalton Pompey combined, which seems a bit low? Maybe? Depending on how much Pearce is needed to keep Justin Smoak out of the fucking lineup?
- Look, it’s not a tire fire, destined to burn until we’re all long dead and gone, it’s just a dumpster fire. The front office can handle figuring this the fuck out, I think. I mean… true, I had more confidence in that before they removed all the obstacles between BIG ZEKE and a whole lot of playing time, but it’s not a problem until it becomes a problem, y’know? It’s only then that we can really start hammering them for not seeing how this was going to be a problem.
- Money quote: “Carrera doesn’t do anything well, and shouldn’t be starting more than once a week. That’s not to say that Upton should be a full-time starter, either.”
Right Field – Rank: 8th
- “Hey, that’s not too bad!” I think to myself before remembering that José Bautista has a King Fuck of a track record and so of course he was always going to grade out well enough by the projections.
- He’ll be fine. NEXT!
Centre Field – Rank: 10th
- Fingers crossed for those changes to your approach, Kevin!
- Money quote: “The middle ground between Marisnick and Kiermaier, Pillar is what you get when you combine top-shelf defense with just enough bat to stay in the line-up everyday. This comment from Tony Blengino’s center field roundup basically sums it up: ‘In reality, Kevin Pillar and (Jacoby) Ellsbury are the same offensive player at this point.’ “
Designated Hitter – Rank: 4th
- I’m sure you don’t need to ask who ranked first. But fourth’s not so bad! … Fourth’s not so bad. It’s… uh… oh? Only in the American League? Well… I… uh… fourth’s not so bad.
- Money quote: “Here are two opinions that can reasonably exist in one single mind. First, that the Blue Jays overpaid (three years, $33 million) Kendrys Morales in an offseason when bat-first players were available at a discount. Second, that the Blue Jays will pay only $11 million per season (an average player costs about $16 million per annum now) for one of the best designated hitters in North America. This — and not a glass halfway filled with water — might become the real litmus test for optimism.”
- STILL BETTER THAN THE FUCKING ORIOLES’ RANKING! (Though that’s mostly because they’ve added a bunch of plate appearances here for José Bautista and Steve Pearce.)
- It’s 1000% only because I want to be, but I am so all in on that Blengino adjusted contact shit that says Kendrys struck the ball better than both Bautista and Edwin last season. So. All. In. And, frankly, as much as most of the numbers we use these days are park- and league-adjusted, making the fact that Kendrys has never played his home games in a hitter-friendly ballpark kinda moot, I can’t help but wonder if we’re applying those adjustments correctly. No, really! Call me crazy but I’m taking the over on everything Kendrys right now. Like I say, it’s entirely because I want him to be better than some measures (*COUGH* WAR *COUGH*) makes him look, but I really don’t think it’s absurd. I don’t know!
The Bullpen – Rank: 16th
- Roberto Osuna is obviously a boss, but beyond him this bullpen starts to look dicey real fast. Except… not that dicey. As I tweeted the other day, I have a lot of time for J.P. Howell, Joe Biagini, and Joe Smith. But Jason Grilli kinda terrifies me.
- Of course, in saying that I might be reading too much in to his 12 hits, 7 walks, 4 homers, and 10 runs in 9.1 September innings. Then again, in saying that I might be going out of my way to overlook his 12 hits, 7 walks, 4 homers, and 10 runs in 9.1 September innings. Yeesh. (Looked good until the Trumbo at-bat on Opening Day, though. No, really.)
- Money quote: “The rest of the bullpen is filled with pitchers who aren’t terrible. That might not sound like a good thing, but reading on should change your mind.”
- Translation of money quote: “The fourteen teams ranked below them that you’re about to read about very much do have pitchers who are terrible.”
- Bullpens: can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em. I don’t know!
- Seriously though, there’s going to be more than enough shuffling of players and riding-of-the-hot-hand that I don’t know whether it’s worth getting too high or low about this ranking. Which… y’know… they’re 16th. That kinda makes sense, I guess.