3

Daily Duce: Keeping an eye on Cleveland

Daily?!?!?!

Spring training got off to a less-than-ideal start for the Blue Jays this week with news of prospect Eric Pardinho undergoing Tommy John surgery and Reese McGuire exposing himself in an outlet mall parking lot making headlines. To compound matters, it was also reported that Ryan Borucki, who had virtually his entire 2019 season derailed due to injury, is dealing with more lingering elbow soreness.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

As Shi Davidi said, Borucki has been shut down as a precaution due to elbow soreness, which is the same injury he dealt with in 2019. Last year in spring training, elbow soreness flared up and it wasn’t supposed to be a big issue. Of course, it ended up limiting him to just a couple of starts in the Majors as he had surgery to remove bone spurs in his elbow. This is really, really unfortunate for Borucki, who hasn’t been able to build on his excellent 2018 breakout season due to this lingering issue.

Borucki is adamant that it’s just minor and that it won’t explode into a season-derailing issue like it did last season.

“Through my throwing program [this off-season] I’ve been feeling pretty good but I didn’t feel 100 per cent, so I just let them know, ‘Hey, I’m not feeling 100 per cent,’” Borucki said Friday, adding he first felt the tightness playing catch a couple of weeks ago.

“It’s, basically, just minor tightness and they wanted to knock out all that tightness before I really start ramping up for games. Basically, all precautionary. Not like last year. It’s nothing like last year. I know the difference between those kinds of things. It’s going to be five, six days rest and then go ramp back up. It should be pretty minor.”

Hopefully, that’s the case. But after what happened last year, it’s difficult not to worry. Last spring, it was just supposed to be a minor thing that would see Borucki miss a couple of starts at the beginning of the season. Given the fact he’s already had Tommy John surgery in the past, there’s legitimate cause for concern about the long-term viability of his arm, and, possibly about him as a starting pitcher.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Ross Atkins said that the organization could consider moving Borucki to the bullpen. Borucki himself says that he wants to remain a starter, but, unfortunately, that may end up not being a reality.

Given the depth that Toronto has right now in terms of starting pitchers on the bubble set to start the season in Triple-A Buffalo, some guys are eventually going to have to be pivoted into bullpen roles. Jordan Romano has already been pivoted, Thomas Pannone will likely be used as a full-time reliever this year, and Jacob Waguespack could be too. Sean Reid-Foley, I imagine, won’t have too much more rope as a starter either. Ideally, Borucki can continue to start games, but a move to the ‘pen might be inevitable if he can’t stay healthy.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

We also got an update from Atkins on the team’s outfield situation. Apparently, the team plans on using Randal Grichuk in centre field, which would make sense, given the contract he was given last year. Grichuk’s numbers suggest he’s fine defensively in both centre and right field, but his bat provides a lot more value if he’s playing a premium defensive position. If Grichuk can rebound offensively to where he was at in 2018 while playing a good centre field, his contract looks great. If not? Yikes.

As an aside, it’s kind of odd that the team has used him in right field so much more than centre over the past couple of seasons and it makes the Teoscar Hernandez in centre field experiment last year all the more bizarre. Surely there was no actual plan of using Hernandez as the long-term centre fielder, right? The plan must’ve always involved Grichuk in centre? It’s just a see what you’ve got kind of situation, I guess. Speaking of Hernandez, this would likely move him into playing as the designated hitter more often than not, which is ideal, because an outfield of Grichuk, Lourdes Gurriel, and Derek Fisher is more than passable.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Here’s something interesting. Apparently, the Jays have more above-average hitters than just about everyone in Major League Baseball (well, above average as in they’re projected by FanGraphs to have a wRC+ of more than 100). Only Minnesota, Houston, and Oakland have more of these players, and the Jays are in a six-way tie with the Dodgers, Cubs, Mets, White Sox, and Yankees for fourth.

Unfortunately, this chart is a tad misleading. While teams like the Dodgers, for example, have the same amount of players projected to be above average as the Jays do, the two teams are actually pretty far apart in terms of talent.

Of Toronto’s eight guys expected to be above average (Vlad, Bo, Grichuk, Biggio, Tellez, Shaw, Gurriel, and Jansen) one of them, Vlad, has a projected wRC+ higher than 107. He’s projected to produce a very solid 127 wRC+ while the rest of the lot is projected to be just slightly above average. Then, taking a look at the Dodgers, Gavin Lux, Matt Beaty, and Enrique Hernandez are in the slightly above average category, hovering around 100, then there’s Corey Seager, Max Muncy, Justin Turner, and Joc Pederson coming in at above-average in the 110-120 range, while Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts are projected to be elite at 147 and 131. So, yeah, eight above average guys, but it’s pretty different.

I mean, still, if you compare yourself to the Dodgers, you’re going to have a bad time. The Jays having this kind of offensive depth is still a good thing. There are plenty of solid players in this lineup, but the team needs a real breakout season from Vlad Jr. and some big performances from other guys like Grichuk and Gurriel in order to exceed expectations.

One thing to keep an eye on in the coming months will be the Cleveland Baseball Team and their potential impending blow-up. Mike Clevenger, arguably their best pitcher, will miss the start of the season after undergoing surgery on his knee, which is obviously a massive hit to the team’s rotation.

Cleveland has been noticeably apathetic about capitalizing on their contention window over the past couple of years. Last year, they kind of just bowed out to the Minnesota Twins and ended up missing the playoffs entirely after dealing away Trevor Bauer at the trade deadline. Then, this winter, they gave up on former Cy Young winner Corey Kluber in a salary dump deal, leaving them with a much thinner starting rotation than we’ve seen in recent years.

It seems like just a matter of time before Cleveland blows it all up and deals away both Clevinger and star shortstop Francisco Lindor in order to avoid paying both players to jumpstart a rebuild. Given the Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins front office connection to Cleveland (Shapiro was team president when Lindor was drafted in 2011 and in 2014 when Clevinger was acquired via trade), it would make sense for the Blue jays to in on both players as they kick their contention window open.