Daily Duce: Friday, June 2nd


Programming note re: Birds All Day: apparently neither of us realized that yesterday was Thursday, and so we didn’t actually manage to record anything! GAH! We’ll make up for it with an extra episode next week!

Shi Davidi of Sportsnet reports that Kevin Pillar will donate the salary he earned during his two-game suspension last month to the Toronto branches of LGBTQ charities PFLAG and You Can Play.

Brett Lawrie joined Sportsnet’s new morning show (featuring our old friend and former contributor, Greg Brady), to… uh… promote chips. Ketchup chips, in particular. But that, of course, didn’t stop the conversation from turning to baseball, and to Lawrie possibly returning to the Blue Jays — something he’d love to do, he said. Hard pass.

Why pass so hard? Let me think on that for a second…

Speaking of Keegan, he also tweets that the Jays have signed 24-year-old C/1B José Mayorga and assigned him to Buffalo. He notes that he last played with the Phillies’ high-A affiliate in 2015, and that in 2016, Mayorga, who is bilingual, was one of the Phillies’ bullpen catchers at the big league level. Interesting.

More roster stuff, as the Jays made it official today that Francisco Liriano is off the DL and Leonel Campos has been optioned back to Buffalo. As expected.

Great stuff from Israel Fehr of the Athletic, as he looks at how the Blue Jays turned their season around in May — and the three B’s most responsible: bats, bullpen, and Biagini.

Matt Gross of Bluebird Banter looks at how Justin Smoak has potentially turned his career around by simply aiming to make better contact rather than swinging out of his shoes at every pitch. “What’s particularly exciting for the Blue Jays about this transformation from Smoak is that it’s happening on hittable pitches almost entirely within the strike zone,” he writes. “Oftentimes when hitters make some sort of adjustment, they have to trade power for contact or contact for power, but so far this year, Smoak is making so much more contact in the zone, it’s actually leading to more power by default. When a guy as strong as Smoak starts squaring up that many more pitches within the strike zone, many of them are bound to go for extra bases.” The one caveat: the Jays have kinda seen a lot of trash pitching lately.

Jeff Church of BP Toronto looks at Ryan Tepera, and assures us all that he’s been good for longer than most of us realize. Truth!

Elsewhere at BP Toronto, Andrew Munn looks at the many versions of José Bautista we’ve seen so far already in 2017. Great stuff!

Craig Edwards of FanGraphs brings us an interesting assessment of José Bautista, and how bad he looked in April, and how he’s turned it around in May. “We shouldn’t have gotten so low on him after his rough start, but we shouldn’t assume he’s all the way back now after this good run,” he ultimately concludes.

Elsewhere at FanGraphs, David Laurila one in which he talks to Bo Bichette, as well as Blue Jays director of player development Gil Kim, about the prospect’s aggressive swing — which the Jays haven’t tried to change — and his approach. Great stuff!

More prospect stuff, as Clutchlings looks at various players in the Jays’ system who might be in line for a promotion in the coming weeks.

And it’s even more prospect stuff!: 2080 Baseball has a great piece up on Anthony Alford and his decision to pick baseball over football, while TSN.ca has an audio clip and a brief look at some prospect stats in their latest Future Watch from former Detroit Lions QB Scott Mitchell.

Thanks to Josh Donaldson’s fifth deck blast this week, we’ve been given reason to look back at all the fifth deck home runs in the history of the Rogers Centre, and over at the Blue Jay Hunter, Ian gives us just that. Note that may only be interesting to me and that I’ve surely told before: I still feel personally responsible for one of the blasts on the list. The Dome had mostly emptied out by the end of the Jays’ 1999 home opener, and me and a couple of friends had managed to sneak into some pretty good seats (unless we paid for them, but I don’t think so). When José Canseco — who had been the Jays’ DH the year before — came to the plate for the 9th, we did some pretty good, loud, in-unison razzing of him, only shutting up the moment he connected and sent a ball into goddamn outer space. At which point what was left of the section in front of us turned around to glare as though it was all our fault. Fair enough!

Robert MacLeod of the Globe and Mail spoke to an “ebullient” Donaldson as he “basked in the glow” of his moonshot.

Oh, and speaking of Ian, his first in a new gig for the Sporting News — colleagues with Spector! — see him write about Devon Travis, and the adjustments he’s made to become one of baseball’s hottest hitters of late.

Great stuff from Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star, as he speaks to Jason Grilli about family, baseball, and turning his season around (which he maybe hasn’t done quite enough to say he’s officially back — whatever that means — but he’s sure getting close to that point… which is to say: he’s been better lately).

Griff also writes one on Kevin Pillar, who he says needs to step it up at the plate, as he’s gone into a funk over the last couple of weeks — coinciding almost exactly with his incident in Atlanta and his subsequent suspension, which is something I addressed in my piece on the subject earlier this week for the Athletic.

Great stuff as well from Alexis Brudnicki of the Canadian Baseball Network, as her dispatches from the road continue with a chat with Jon Harris. She finds Harris in New Hampshire, and looks back on the great college career and quick rise so far for the club’s 2015 first round pick.

Speaking of the draft, Ben Nicholson-Smith has a nifty Jays-focused draft primer over at Sportsnet. The Jays will pick 22nd and 28th, which means they’ll have a pretty nifty bonus pool if they want to get creative in later rounds and maybe spend a little less early on — which is perhaps what they’re aiming to do, as Benny Fresh notes that Keith Law says at ESPN.com that the club has mostly been linked with college players, with an emphasis on position players. Law, John Manuel of Baseball America, and Jim Callis of MLB.com all have the Jays taking college players with the 22nd pick in their latest mock drafts (though two of three, including Law, have them taking arms). Perhaps college players are especially appealing because they’ll advance through the minors relatively quickly, and end up closer in terms of timeline to the cohort of prospects already in full season ball — i.e. a group that could give the Jays a serious infusion of young talent over the next two or three or four years, just as much as their current roster starts to age and/or get real expensive. Or, y’know, maybe they just like the college guys out there.

Speaking of the draft, MLB.com tells us that this year it will be Lloyd Moseby who represents the Jays at the event, along with area scout Mike Tidick.

Adam Corsair of South of the Six eats his words on the subject of Justin Smoak, which is admirable, if… y’know… perhaps a touch early.

Back to Sportsnet once again, as Jonah Keri answers reader questions on the Jays in his weekly mailbag! I’d totally hijack it, but, y’know, I’ve got my own mailbag to do for Monday. Mailbags galore! Send me (or @ me) some questions, by the way! Stoeten at gmail dot com.

Lastly, some sweet, delicious schadenfreude, as the Red Sox fans at Over the Monster apparently have a thing called the Friday Fire Farrell Index, where they look at where the club’s embattled manager stands with respect to keeping his job. Awesome! Though, as much as I think we all probably do enjoy the troubles of Mr. Dream Job, a couple things to keep in mind: 1) he did kinda win the World Series that one time, and 2) it completely wouldn’t shock me if, were he to actually get fired, the Jays front office would consider picking him up in some executive capacity. Just sayin’, there’s familiarity there, and he talks just like them!

  • Stolen Prayers

    While I agree that the Jays have seen some poor pitching of late, it’s not like Smoak has hit any super deep lows (47 wRC+ 15 game average, and that was at the start of the season). Do I think he’s now a 150 wRC+ guy? No. Do I think he could level out at a passable Brandon Belt-light 120? Definitely maybe!

  • Steve-O

    The FO hiring Square Jaw Dreamjob McFuckface would really piss me off.

    (I’d get over it, and he might even prove to be not-useless in an executive capacity, but seriously… fuck that guy.)