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News and Notes: Ross Atkins’ press conference, two Blue Jay prospects rank in Fangraphs’ Top 100 list, and more!

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Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Brennan Delaney
1 month ago
It’s time for a News and Notes, ladies and gentlemen.
The time has finally arrived, on Thursday, pitchers and catchers (and let’s be real, most players), reported to Dunedin for the start of Spring Training. Never fret, we’re just about 10 days away from actual baseball games.
Let’s look at some news and notes from a jam-packed first day.

Ross Atkins press conference

General manager Ross Atkins spoke to media members and well… a lot of interesting tidbits were said. First off, let’s start with this quote:
“At this point, additions that would be of significance would mean some level of subtraction. Now it makes more sense, operationally for us, if we consider an addition, that we should be subtracting.”
If you’re like me, you’re responding to Atkins “what in the heck do you mean”. The way I understand this is that they appear to be done, but if they do make moves, it would likely be through trade? Or if they add say a third baseman, maybe a third baseman is jettisoned (not literally) off the 40-man?
I’m a pretty optimistic and patient person, but if the Jays don’t add a bat here that can hit homers, either through signing Matt Chapman or Cody Bellinger, or through trade, that’s a problem.
The Sports Network’s Scott Mitchell asked Atkins about Orelvis Martinez and Addison Barger, with the Jays general manager saying that “it’s an uphill battle”.
Martinez isn’t ready for a big league debut just yet, slashing .247/.344/.505 with 30 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A. Now, it’s an encouraging sign that his BB% increased to 12.4%, while his K% dropped to 23.3%, but he needs at least another half season in Buffalo to adjust to pitchers with big league experience. It also seems like second base will be Martinez’s home, although he deserves an opportunity at shortstop and definitely third base.
Barger is the more MLB-ready prospect of the two after a huge breakout in 2022. Unfortunately, his 2023 season wasn’t great as he had an elbow issue, slashing just .250/.353/.403 with nine homers in 397 plate appearances in Triple-A. The 24-year-old’s K% was 21.7%, while he maintained a high 13.1 BB%. For Barger, it seems like third base or right field will be his home, which makes sense given his arm strength.
Other little notes from the press conference included Atkins expanding on the offensive coordinator role, in which he said that Don Mattingly will lead the way, instead of having two voices in Dave Hudgens and Guillermo Martinez.
Toronto Sun’s Rob Longley also reported that Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was in the room when the Jays and Guerrero Jr. met the arbitrators. Hopefully, nothing bad was said and Guerrero Jr. can go off in 2024 like he did in 2021.
Interesting interview when it’s all said and done.

Mitch White, Bowden Francis, Yariel Rodríguez starters?

For a couple of seasons now, the Blue Jays depth at the starter position has been less than ideal for a contending team. Well, that no longer looks to be the case, as Bowden Francis, Mitch White, and Yariel Rodríguez are all being built up as starters.
On top of Alek Manoah looking great, the Jays will have a ton of competition for that final spot in the rotation. Manoah is still seen as the front runner, given that the 26-year-old had a rough season in 2023 but was a nominee for the Cy Young award in 2022.
White, say what you want about him, had a great end to his 2023 season with the Buffalo Bisons. He posted a 1.89 ERA and a 3.21 FIP in 33.1 innings pitched, or seven starts. Moreover, he had an impressive 31.4 K% and a 10.2 BB%, but is out of options and will have to make the team out of camp or be designated for assignment or traded if he doesn’t. What’s the cause of the improvement? Well, Chris Black has a great thread on that.
Francis was great with the Jays, posting a 1.73 ERA and a 3.86 FIP in 36.1 innings pitched, along with a 25.7 K% and a 5.9 BB% pitching as a long-man in the pen. The 27-year-old righty has a little more versatility, as he has an option year remaining, but it’ll be exciting to see what he can do as a starter.
Rodríguez has never pitched in Major League Baseball, and hasn’t pitched in-game since the 2023 World Baseball Classic. The Jays have the ability to option him without permission for 2024 only, so expect him to be up and down the QEW a few times this season as he stretches out to become a full-time starter.

Cavan Biggio has shoulder tendinitis:

According to MLB’s Keegan Matheson, Biggio has “left shoulder tendinitis” when speaking with John Schneider. The Jays are seemingly being careful with him, but he’s the only player with a physical ailment.
In 2023, Biggio had his best season since the 2020 pandemic year, slashing .235/.340/.370 with nine homers in 338 plate appearances, along with an 11.8 BB% and a 26 K%. The 28-year-old had a great second half, slashing .272/.404/.361 with two homers for a 124 wRC+.
It also helps that the Jays can slot him all over the field, playing first, second, third, and right field in 2023. In fact, he even played an inning at shortstop for some reason this past season.

Spring Breakout Game

The Spring Breakout Game is the first annual matchup between two teams where their prospects play against each other. This season, the Blue Jays prospects will face off against New York Yankee prospects on March 16.
Hopefully, we’ll be able to see prospects like Ricky Tiedemann, Orelvis Martinez, Addison Barger, Damiano Palmegiani, Alan Roden, and others in action and get the first win against the Yankees out of the way before the season even starts.

Two Blue Jays rank in Fangraphs’ Top 100 list

The two usual suspects rank on Fangraphs’ Top 100 list, Ricky Tiedemann comes in ranked 28th-overall, while Orelvis Martinez ranks 66th-overall.
Fangraphs’ report notes that Tiedemann has two plus pitches, with the changeup not lagging far behind. While there is reliever risk, especially with his delivery, he’s at worst going to be a dominant reliever, he just needs to stay healthy.
For Martinez, Fangraphs don’t know which position will be his regular spot, with it likely being second base or third base, but the power is legit. On top of that, he’s made some significant changes that helped boost his stock, as well as helping him walk more and strikeout less.
Who knows where all these prospects will rank in the 2025 ranking, but Arjun Nimmala and quite a few other young prospects in the Jays organization can throw their name in the hat if they pitch well to start the 2024 season.

As always, you can follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Threads @Brennan_L_D.

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