Daily Duce: Wednesday, August 16th


Arden Zwelling of Sportsnet talks to Tim Mayza and looks at the young pitcher’s rise through the Jays’ system — and how it was helped along after a visit from the great Pat Hentgen.

Elsewhere at Sportsnet, the Tao Of Stieb wonders if it’s time for the Jays to invest in the bullpen (with a focus on the long-term, as the piece was written last week, before we decided these Jays are steaming toward the playoffs whether anybody likes it or not), while Ben Nicholson-Smith spoke last week to Chris Rowley, who made a good impression in his first big league start over the weekend, becoming the first West Point graduate to pitch in the majors. Also: Shi Davidi looked at how Ryan Goins has become Mr. RISP for the Jays this year, and the way that the Jays are grooming Lourdes Gurriel to play multiple positions.

Also at Sportsnet, Benny Fresh tries to make sense of the Marco Estrada waiver claim.

Whereas Benny Fresh’s piece zeroes in on how John Gibbons says he would like to see Estrada back, at the Blue Jay Hunter, Ian waxes about Marco’s weird day on Tuesday, and offers his own theory on what may have been happening behind the scenes. Estrada was, of course, claimed on trade waivers on the day that he had to pitch — forcing him to prepare for his start with some uncertainty as to whether or not he was even going to get the ball, then going out and not looking particularly (he allowed six earned runs, and issued four walks over 4.1 innings — in his previous four “bounceback” starts he’d allowed just 10 walks and 6 ER combined). I don’t think I’m buying Ian’s extension-based theorizing as to why Estrada was placed on waivers at this point and not on August 1st (I’ll turn to Occam’s Razor for my own guess: other teams had no interest in the struggling Estrada back on August 1st when he was first eligible to go through, so the Jays didn’t bother; a few good starts resurrected interest, and so to proceed they to see if he’d get claimed or not), but what the club does with Estrada this winter genuinly is an interesting question. Theoretically, at least. In reality it seems a little too much like a no-brainer to bring him back: they’ll have an Estrada-sized hole in their rotation and will in all likelihood be looking for an Estrada-like piece (mid-tier free agent who might be undervalued — in this case because of his poor run this year — but has the upside to really be quite special; basically the same formula as when they re-signed Marco the first time, as well as Happ, Morales, Pearce, and (if you really want to give them credit) Smoak). It will be interesting if they don’t bring him back, though!

Laura Armstrong of the Toronto Star talks to Aaron Sanchez about the timetable for his return, and… fuck blisters, man. “Sanchez hopes he will be back on the mound this year. But with fewer than seven weeks left in the regular season, and with the minor leagues coming to a close about a month earlier, it is still up in the air if he can make that happen, let alone as a starter.” This, of course, has led to talk about the Sanchize coming back as a reliever at first, which… actually would do a hell of a lot of good for the bullpen right now.

Speaking of which, some really interesting stuff, as always, from the Toronto division of Prospectus Entertainment Ventures, LLC, as Mike Passador tries to figure just what the hell has happened to Roberto Osuna’s fastball.

Elsewhere at BP Toronto, Matt Gwin writes a piece titled “How increased team interest may actually hurt the Blue Jays,” and I guess what they say is really true: there’s a dril tweet for everything.

FanGraphs has updated its list of the top Blue Jays prospects (and, in fact, the top prospects for all teams in the AL East, and across MLB), and in the piece Eric Longenhagen rethinks his skepticism on Bo Bichette (he moves up to third, behind Vlad and Anthony Alford, having been 10th on the club’s preseason list), and notes a “sizeable gap” after the top three — but one that’s followed by the newly acquired Teoscar Hernandez, and the just-drafted Logan Warmoth.

Elsewhere at FanGraphs, a great piece from Travis Sawchick on Josh Donaldson and the way he used technology — and his first love, golf — to transform himself into an MVP; and also a pair of delicious ones on one of the many trash teams ahead of the Jays in the race for the Wild Card: the Yankees, and how Aaron Judge needs to adjust as he struggles through the second half, and how Aroldis Chapman doesn’t look right.

Great stuff, as always, from the Athletic, as John Lott talks to the Jays’ most recent top draft pick, Logan Warmoth, about his family and his baseball journey.

Elsewhere at the Athletic, Israel Fehr gives us a visual guide to José Bautista’s decline this season. Which… oof.

Robert MacLeod of the Globe and Mail has a nice feature on the too-often maligned Ryan Goins (who I also wrote about this week… as well as Teen Wolf).

Over at TSN.ca, Scott Mitchell looks at how the Jays’ familiar blend of power and pitching seems to be working its magic a little bit again. Funny how that happens when Josh Donaldson suddenly remembers he’s a fuckin’ boss.

Awesome stuff from over at Clutchlings, as they chat with Steve Sanders, the Jays’ scouting director, about the Jays drafting philosophy, their approach to the draft and the tools that they use. Sanders also gives specific reports on a huge number of the players that the club drafted this June. Go read this!

More prospect-y goodness: It’s behind their paywall, but perhaps a reason you’d want to go and pay a pretty reasonable price for their premium content: Blue Jays From Away scouts the newly acquired Thomas Pannone.

Over at Jays Journal, Brendan Panikkar, presumably with a straight face, writes that “In my mind, the Blue Jays top priority going into the off-season is finding a legitimate backup catcher,” then goes about noting the vacancies the club will face this winter, which include starting right fielder and two starting pitchers. Uh… OK. All this stuff basically echoes what Jeff Blair wrote about the position earlier in the week, which I found particularly odd — not because the Jays couldn’t use a backup catcher who won’t give negative value when called upon, because obviously the options they’ve tried this year haven’t been good enough, but because… y’know… they’re all bad. I figured we’d be done with the silly harping about this position once Josh Thole — who was so bad his team went to the ALCS the last two years — was out of the picture, but apparently not! Brendan’s not saying that the Jays need an All-Star backup, of course, but still. Top priority? If they can make something happen that makes sense here, sure, but seriously? I’m not sure the club will figure Danny Jansen is ready straight out of the gate, nor would they want to make him a backup for a full year at this point anyway, but he’ll get a chance if Martin goes down, and maybe even later on in the season if he doesn’t. If no perfect piece to fit this roster hole emerges this winter, not only will doing the patchwork thing until Jansen gets to that point be entirely fine, it’ll be the only damn option anyway. Viable catchers do not grow on trees. Plenty of teams don’t even have one, let alone two.

Hey, and while I’m here, let me pick on the ol’ content mill again, as Jays Journal has once again delivered a mild head-scratcher of a headline with Carlos Ramirez has closer potential. Or… oh, wait, sorry, that’s Blue Jays’ Carlos Ramirez has closer potential. Didn’t mean to fuck up the SEO there! But yeah… so… Carlos Ramirez, who exists, is actually pretty interesting, and has improved upon his breakout 2016 with an even better year this year. He’s a power-armed converted outfielder who has been on the mound since 2014, but only this year has really managed to learn how to avoid issuing walks. Even his strong 2016 in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League saw him walk 21 in 41 innings (he struck out 41). This year in New Hampshire he walked just seven and struck out 29 in 23.2 innings, and has issued just one free pass over 5.2 innings at Buffalo, while striking out eight. He’s made himself into a legitimate bullpen prospect, it seems. Go ahead and be excited about that to a completely reasonable extent! It’s just “closer potential,” to me, means something pretty specific and pretty special. Maybe I’m nitpicking too much on these guys, or maybe I’m missing something and Ramirez really is a cut above a lot of his peers, but by a definition this loose I’d think several guys who’ve been cycled between the Jays and the Bisons might be said to have “closer potential,” which… doesn’t exactly speak well of the definition. Or the headline.

Ramirez gets a mention in this one at Bluebird Banter, as well, as Matt W wonders what the hell the Jays are doing with J.P. Howell. (A question that appears to have been answered in the moments after I hit publish on this, as Dominic Leone has returned from the bereavement list tonight, and Howell’s name is absent from its usual spot on the Jays’ lineup card. Also: Miguel Montero is back off the DL, and Mike Ohlman is out — though whether that means optioned back to Buffalo, DFA, “injured,” or what, I’m not sure. Does he have options? I likely won’t look this up so you’re on your own!)

Nick Ashbourne of Yahoo! Sports writes that “we are not witnessing a Marcus Stroman breakout,” which is a pronouncement I’m not entirely sure I agree with. I get that many peripherals look very similar to 2016 and that the real big difference powering his drop in ERA seems to be a bump in strand rate that’s influenced by a low BABIP (.286) with runners on. But a low BABIP of any kind, with the infield defence the Jays have employed most of this year, seems a little odd, doesn’t it? The defence has gotten worse but Stroman’s BABIP overall has stayed about the same, and while there obviously is luck to be considered there, I think it’s fair to wonder about the quality of the contact he’s inducing, too. His line drive rate has gone from 19.6% to 17.0%, what’s classified as hard contact has gone from 31.7% to 29.7%, soft contact from 18.3% to 21.3%, and per Statcast the average exit velocity on balls in play off him has gone from 89.9 to 88.2. This season there are over 30 pitchers with at least 180 batted ball events who’ve had a higher average exit velocity against than Stroman, last year there were only six. Could his hitches and hiccups be the driving force behind this effect? If so, is it maybe sustainable? And if the answer to that question is yes, then I think we might actually be able to say that he is having a breakout.

“I’m Getting Super Excited About Blue Jays Nate Pearson” says a headline from Jays From The Couch, which… OK, that’s fine and all. I don’t want to take anything away from Pearson, and it’s awesome that he’s seeing more advanced competition than he’s faced before and not missing a beat. But he touches 100 and was the best junior college arm in the last draft. We should hope that he’d excel in the GCL and Northwest League! And while it’s true that his numbers at Vancouver look far better than, say, Jon Harris, who struggled there in 2015 (a year older and coming from and NCAA program), I’m not sure how much we want to scout the stat line on this just yet. Be excited, sure. But just because over ten innings Pearson seems to be showing he’s a better pitcher than hitters at this level are capable of handling, it doesn’t mean hitters farther up the chain are going to be as punchless. Him dominating sure is better than him being bad, I’m just sayin’.

Our friend Ryan from over at Jays Droppings looks at some comments Jerry Howarth made this week about Marco Estrada, who the longtime radio voice of the club thinks the team should keep. (He also thinks the should pencil Joe Biagini into the 2018 rotation already, which… uh… let’s maybe aim a little higher there, eh?).

Lastly, Jonathan Bernhardt of Fan Rag writes about the Jays are in regarding Troy Tulowitzki. Interesting to read this stuff from someone outside of our usual sphere — though it’s not like the problems identified are a mystery. I did find it kinda funny, though, how in one sentence he stumped for Larry Walker to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame, then disparaged Andrés Galarraga in the next. Galarraga had some (or at least one) great years in Montréal! And Atlanta, too! His highest WAR and wRC+ years were in those cities, not Denver. And while, yes, the home run totals did jump when he played for the Rockies, he’s hardly the player I’d call the poster boy for the “Coors-made hitter.” Stop pickin’ on Andrés!

  • AD

    Just wondering, why would the jays be mainly looking at mid tier free agents? Hypothetically if shapkins really want to for it in 2018, whats the point of going for mediocre talent? Shouldnt we be looking to significantly upgrade the talent on his team to compete with the yankees and red sox? Personally, i think jays should rebuild but this half assed approach got the jays in trouble in the late 90s and early 2000s

    • Never shapkins.

      Also, mid tier isn’t mediocre, it’s guy’s who don’t cost a draft pick or require massive financial commitments. They’re not “going for it” in 2018, they’re going to try to stay competitive while not damaging the future. It’s rebuilding without rebuilding. The payroll and the second wild card allows them to do that. It is nothing like the 90s or 2000s.

  • jerjapan

    Seconding Stoeten, if you dig the minors to the nerdy extent that I do, Blue Jays from Away is a good place to spend your money.

    To me, ‘closer potential’ is the ability to dominate, and Ramirez has been utterly dominant in a SSS this year. He doesn’t throw as hard as you might think, but harder than a Danny Barnes type – I think if he keeps pitching like this, closer potential may make sense.

  • Terry Mesmer

    So nice this season not to hear Jays Talk callers claim Thole was ruining the team. He never ranked higher than 14th in Jays plate appearances in four years here, but…