Category Archives: Upper Deck Insight

Not Your Average, Everyday All-Star Snub Column

Could this man have been an All-Star? (photo from daylife.com)

The MLB All-Star game is set for next Tuesday, July 13th in Anaheim.  Baseball’s All-Star game has many detractors but I for one enjoy it.  I like seeing the best players in each league playing a game for fun with nothing really on the line.  Sure it has problems.  Do I think the winner should get home field advantage in the World Series?  No.  Do I think rosters should have been expanded to an astronomical 34 players?  No.  But even with those corny initiatives, the baseball’s game is far superior to the other major sports.

But I’ll tell you one thing I do hate about the All-Star game: the inevitable snub columns.  As in every other sport, many players having excellent years miss the cut.  That’s the way it goes.  But on every sports website you will find multiple columns outlining who should have made it and why.  I have read that Joey Votto was screwed by eight different sportswriters.  Enough is enough.

So instead of jumping into the fray to tell you that Votto, or Kevin Youkilis, or Miguel Olivo, or Jered Weaver should have made it, I thought I’d switch it up.  Instead of focusing on the obvious, I am focusing on the more obscure.  Below are 13 players that many fans might not have heard of, or who were all but washed up last year.  Each are having excellent years, but none were recognized with an All-Star spot.

*Note: OPS rank is per position – min. 240 plate appearances

C – Geovany Soto, Cubs (.277 avg, 8 HR, 23 RBI, .872 OPS – 2nd)

1B – Aubrey Huff, Giants (.294 avg, 15 HR, 49 RBI, .916 OPS – 9th)

2B – Kelly Johnson, Diamondbacks (.265 avg, 13 HR, 38 RBI, .851 OPS – 4th)

3B – Casey McGehee, Brewers (.274 avg, 13 HR, 52 RBI, .806 OPS – 9th)

SS – Alex Gonzalez, Blue Jays (.258 avg, 15 HR, 42 RBI, .782 OPS – 4th)

OF – Josh Willingham, Nationals (.281 avg, 15 HR, 46 RBI, .926 OPS – 4th)

OF – Colby Rasmus, Cardinals (.278 avg, 16 HR, 40 RBI, .916 OPS – 6th)

OF – Brennan Boesch, Tigers (.344 avg, 12 HR, 46 RBI, 1.001 OPS – 1st)

You won’t find any superstars on that list.  Huff is a journeyman who has bounced around a lot of bad teams over the years.  Johnson was deemed expendable by the Braves.  Rasmus is a second year player and Boesch is a rookie.  Gonzalez was supposed to be an all-glove no-bat player, and Soto was coming off an abysmal year where he was criticized for being overweight and getting caught with marijuana at the world baseball classic.  If anybody stands up and says they saw excellent seasons coming from this bunch they are both a liar and a coward.

Now for some pitchers.  I named three starters and two relievers, but did not include any closers.  Closers get all the attention – middle relievers get none.

SP – Mat Latos, Padres (9-4, 2.62 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 8.22 K/9)

SP – Jaime Garcia, Cardinals (8-4, 2.10 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 7.35 K/9)

SP – Colby Lewis, Rangers (7-5, 3.35 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 8.34 K/9)

RP – Luke Gregerson, Padres (2-3, 2.23 ERA, 0.60 WHIP, 11.38 K/9)

RP – Tyler Clippard, Nationals (8-5, 2.65 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 10.06 K/9)

Again, take a look at the names.  Coming into this year Latos had 10 career starts and Garcia had one.  Gregerson is in his second major league season.  Clippard plays for the Nationals.   Colby Lewis spent the last two seasons in Japan.  Enough said.

Agree?  Disagree?  Let me know some other players I might have missed, or if you think any of these shouldn’t be included.

Fun With Numbers – Half Way Home Edition

With the season just passing the official half-way point, let’s look at some numbers for the Blue Jays heading into the second half.  The 15 numbers listed below cover all kinds of statistical categories, and are current as of Sunday’s 7-6 extra inning loss to the Yankees.

41 – Wins by the Jays through July 4th (41-42 record).  Toronto was 42-40 through July 4th last season.

120 – Toronto home runs, still 1st in all of baseball, but now only ahead of the Boston Red Sox by 10.

0 – Wins by the Blue Jays in games that David Purcey makes an appearance.  After Sunday’s loss they are 0-11 when he pitches.

11 – Runs allowed by the Jays in the third inning yesterday, tying a franchise record set August 6, 1979 vs. KC.  (Thanks @MLBastian for the info)

17 – Games in which the Jays scored three runs or fewer in June.  The offense has not returned in July, with Toronto scoring three runs or less in two of the first four games this month.

7 – Blue Jay players who hit under .200 in June (Hill, Lind, Bautista, Encarnacion, Hoffpauir, Wise, McDonald)

82 – Rank of DH Adam Lind in the AL in OPS (out of 85).  His .617 OPS puts him ahead of only Jose Lopez of Seattle, and two White Sox: Juan Pierre and Gordon Beckham.  Lind ranks behind such notable sluggers as Yuniesky Betancourt, Jason Kendall, and Chone Figgins.

85 – Rank of 2B Aaron Hill in the AL in batting average.  His .189 average puts him in dead last among hitters with enough AB to qualify for the batting title.

3 – Toronto Blue Jays named to the AL All-Star team: Vernon Wells, John Buck, Jose Bautista

4 – Years since the Jays have had three or more All-Stars.  2006 saw B.J. Ryan, Roy Halladay, Vernon Wells, Alex Rios, and Troy Glaus named to the AL squad.

2 – Blue Jay catchers to be named to an All-Star team: Ernie Whitt (1985) and John Buck (2010)

.310 – Batting average for Lyle Overbay since dropping below the Mendoza line on May 28th.  From May 29 to July 4 his average has risen from .197 to .241.  Apologies accepted.

4 & 5 – Rank among AL pitchers in ERA for the month of June for Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero.  Despite the stellar ERAs (Morrow 1.91, Romero 2.12) each pitcher had only one win.

9.27 – K/9 ratio for Brandon Morrow in June, 4th among AL Pitchers.  Only Jered Weaver, Francisco Liriano, and Max Scherzer were higher.

20 – Number of draft picks signed by Alex Anthopoulos since the draft held between June 7-9.  The GM has until August 15 to sign his remaining 36 picks.  Last year JP Ricciardi could only sign 30 of his 52 picks.

You Want Moves? We’ve Got Moves…

Brace yourself - he's back... (photo from Daylife.com)

Busy Friday for the Blue Jays.  First, they went out and beat New York in Yankee Stadium, 6-1 in 11 innings.  The victory put an end to a brutal five game losing streak, and also saw them score more than five runs in a game – a rarity since the calendar turned to June.  Second, Cito showed signs of life, with his first ejection since August of 2009 – also at Yankee Stadium.  Third, and most important for this piece, Alex Anthopoulos made several roster moves.  For a more detailed account and analysis, I urge you to read Jays beat writer Jordan Bastian’s account here. But while you’re here, why not read my no-holds barred opinion on what went down yesterday?

First the Marcum injury (15-Day DL – right elbow inflammation).  Looking at it optimistically I can see two good points.  One is the fact that the injury does not appear to be serious.  According to the Jays, the All-Star break should be enough time for him to rest and heal, meaning he should be back at full strength post break.  Considering the All-Star game itself is only a week-and-a-half away that is good news.  Second is the fact that Marcum is injured and simply not struggling.  You never want to see a player go down, but in this case it is a little bit reassuring that we now have an explanation for his drop in performance.  From his start on June 2 through his start on Canada Day, Marcum has struggled to the tune of a 2-3 record, 5.24 ERA, and a 1.46 WHIP, while only averaging less than 6 innings per start.  Very un-Marcum like.  Hopefully he’ll come back with a vengeance.

But there are also two negatives about the Marcum injury.  The first is obvious.  SHAUN MARCUM IS INJURED! Our opening day, and most consistent, starter.  Our ace.  Our stopper who dominates after Jays losses.  The other negative is that Toronto now has to replace him.  To do that, AA called up Marc Rzepzcynski from Vegas.  As I pointed out in Monday’s Weekly Things column, Rzep was starting to pitch better at Triple-A (including a win with 2 ER in 5 IP on Monday).  But Jessie Litsch is still wildly inconsistent and could possibly use some more time in the minors – now impossible.  Rzep’s call up was supposed to be out of convenience.  Now it is out of necessity.  Very dangerous.

The second series of moves made by Anthopoulos saw a role reversal.  Edwin Encarnacion was recalled, forcing Jarrett Hoffpauir back to Vegas.  Jeremy Reed was granted free agency to make room for EE’s return to the 40-man roster.  I don’t care about the jettisoning of Reed.  He was at best a spare part, didn’t prove he could hit while he was here, and basically has no purpose on the roster now that DeWayne Wise is back.  It’s the Encarnacion recall that concerns me the most.

Sure Hoffpauir didn’t do a whole lot up here (.214 average, 0 HR, 0 RBI).  But baseball is a game of sample sizes.  Hoff was only given 9 games and 28 at-bats to prove he belonged – clearly not enough to time to become acclimatized to his new surroundings, teammates, and AL pitching.  Similarly, EE destroyed minor league pitching but did so in an extreme hitters league, and with a very small sample size – 7 games, 32 AB.  The numbers were good, don’t get me wrong (.438 average, 3 HR, 13 RBI, 1.267 OPS).  But one look at his production in the majors (120 AB, .200 average, .765 OPS) is enough to bring tears to a Jays fans eyes.  He also committed five errors in those seven games in AAA to go along with the seven he made in Toronto.  By comparison Hoff had zero in 27 chances.

I’m not trying to argue against Anthopoulos.  I understand that Encarnacion has a better upside and more potential.  I understand that Toronto’s offense has gone AWOL and they need a spark to get them going.  I just question whether EE is the one who can provide that spark, considering he was one of the main culprits who helped put the fire out in the first place.  Who knows – maybe he can catch fire, do just enough to increase his trade value, and we can get him the hell out of here.  Judging from a Twitter response to an informal poll conducted by Jordan Bastian, Jays fans sure hope so (40-8 in favour of never wanting to see EE in a Jays uniform again).

One final note – while many Jays fans are starting to get louder in support of calling up Vegas catcher JP Arencibia (.313 average, 19 HR, 52 RBI), a move was made elsewhere involving a past Toronto “catcher of the future”.  Boston reacquired Kevin Cash from Houston to replace Jason Varitek on the roster (out with a broken foot).  How Cash, with his lifetime .187 batting average and .539 OPS can still find meaningful employment in the major leagues is beyond me.

April Showers Bring May Flowers….May Flowers Bring TERRIBLE JUNE HITTING!

Lind strikes out - a daily occurence in June (from daylife.com)

 

Poor Ricky Romero.  The Blue Jay left-hander has been one of the best pitchers in baseball this season but you wouldn’t know it by looking at his record.  At 6-4, on the surface Romero appears to be an above-average starter.  But he has been the victim of horrendous run support all season long – most notably in his last two starts.  Despite going 15 innings and allowing only 2 ER, Romero ended up 0-1 with a no-decision as Toronto provided him with a single run of support.  A 1-0 loss to St. Louis last Wednesday was followed by a 2-1 loss to the Indians last night.

But it isn’t just the past week or so that runs have been at a premium.  Toronto’s offensive production in June has completely fallen off the map.  The MLB home run leaders are looking more toothless by the day.  Just look at some of these statistics for the month of June:

Average: .223, dead last in baseball – 15 points back of Seattle for 29th

OBP: .294, second last in baseball

Slugging: .378, 25th (April – .446, 6th; May – .493, 2nd)

OPS: .673, 26th (April – .749, 15th; May – .810, 4th)

Runs: 75, 29th (April – 110, 11th; May – 164, 3rd)

The runs scored figure is particularly discouraging.  In April and May, Toronto’s average and on-base percentage were both poor, yet they still ranked in the top half of all of baseball in runs scored.  Suddenly, they sit second last in the league for the month of June.  75 runs scored equates to an average of only 3.1 per game, and ranks the Jays ahead of only Seattle.  They have scored nearly 100 fewer runs than Texas . 

To state the obvious – if you don’t score you can’t win.  The Blue Jays are 9-15 in June.  They plated three runs or less in 16 of those 24 games, including a stretch of eight games in a row.  It is asking a lot from your pitching staff to win more games than you lose with hitting like that.

So who are the culprits?  The Jays have eight players with over 50 AB this month, and only one – Lyle Overbay of all people – is hitting higher than .280.

Considering an average level of major league production, only Wells (power), Buck (power), Overbay (on base) and Lewis (on base) are having decent months – and that’s stretching it a bit.

The easiest guys to point fingers at are Hill and Lind.  There are 84 players in the American League with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title.  Of those 84, Aaron Hill is 78th in OPS and Adam Lind is 81st.  Compared to this point last season (June 28th) the dropoff is astounding:

Hill (2009): .305 average, .512 slugging, .856 OPS, 19 HR, 56 RBI

Hill (2010): .189 average, .365 slugging, .645 OPS, 11 HR, 28 RBI

Lind (2009): .307 average, .545 slugging, .930 OPS, 15 HR, 52 RBI

Lind (2010): .204 average, .344 slugging, .609 OPS, 9 HR, 34 RBI

But even though they have struggled, nobody is picking up the slack this month.

Go ahead and expand the sample to include the rest of the roster, and the picture is even bleaker.  Edwin Encarnacion was sent down due to his terrible performance (.167 average, .313 slugging).  His replacement Jarrett Hoffpauir is hitting .174.  Little used subs Johnny Mac (.143) and DeWayne Wise (.167) are actually hitting worse.  Jose Molina, at 5/14 .357, has been Toronto’s best hitter, but that sample size is too small to mean anything.

But there is good news.  Baseball is, and always has been, a cyclical sport full of ups and downs.  The Blue Jays are only (hopefully) bottoming out, reaching the bottom of the valley before starting an ascent back upwards.  Slumps don’t last forever.  Hell, even the great Albert Pujols, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and Joe Mauer are hitting well off their career norms, so we shouldn’t be all that upset that Jose Bautista has hit a dry patch.

The best news of all however concerns who is getting close to making an impact on the Blue Jays roster.  Travis Snider is nearing a return and is supposed to return after the all star break.  Triple-A stats have to be taken with a grain of salt (after all Edwin Encarnacion is hitting .407 with a 1.115 OPS since being sent down) but down on the farm, Brett Wallace (.301 average, .869 OPS), JP Arencibia (.306 average, .969 OPS), Chris Lubanski (.308 average, .964 OPS), and Brad Emaus (.310 average, .888 OPS) are tearing it up.  Any of them could make an appearance in Toronto before the season is out. 

But…if the Jays keep hitting like they have been in June, any (or all) of them could make an appearance before July is out.

Random Non-Baseball Rants and Raves

I know, I know.  This is a Blue Jays blog.  I should not be using this space to go off on a tangent about things non-Jays, or non-baseball.  But I have four quick and random non-baseball thoughts to get off my chest.

1. The on-field action at the World Cup has been poor at best.  I can only remember a few good games thus far, maybe Brazil vs. North Korea, Cameroon vs. Denmark, and perhaps Ghana vs. website offline . Australia.  The heavyweights have been brutal.  Italy has been horrendous, France sucks the bag, and England – well, don’t get me started about my boys.  They have been terrible, and even worse they have been painful to watch.  I only hope that the big boys wake up in time, or progression from the group stage will be impossible.

2. The off-field action at the World Cup has been bizarre.  From the annoying vuvuzelas to the backlash against the refereeing, it seems like the actions off the pitch are taking precedence.  But of all the strange activity, nothing has been weirder than the French.  Anelka is sent home because he had an argument with his coach.  Then the players bond together and refuse to practice, in order to show their support for their banished team-mate.  Then, team captain Patrice Evra gets in a near physical confrontation with France’s head trainer.  Then the players leave the practice facility, forcing coach Domenech to read a statement.  Then the team director quits, and throws his credentials to the ground in a fit of fury.  Amazing!  This team is more dysfunctional than the Blue Jays of John Gibbons!

3. Montreal’s trade of Jaroslav Halak is downright baffling.  I understand that he is probably at the peak of his value now, and will demand a lucrative contract.  But that’s all you could get for him?  Judging by how “well” Carey Price has played over the past few seasons, this is a huge risk.  Good thing I’m a Leaf fan or I’d be very upset.  Actually, is that a good thing?

4. The US Open: wow.  Watching that unfold yesterday was like watching a train wreck.  Nobody wanted to win.  Tiger, Phil, Ernie, and Davis Love, all kept moving backwards.  Dustin Johnson did his best impression of me on the 2nd hole, with an amazing flub.  No-name Gregory Havret moved within a stroke of the lead, then blew two golden chances on 17 and 18.  Through it all, leader Graeme McDowell had a chance to blow the field away, but kept bogeying holes of his own.  It was a remarkable tournament that seemed destined to never end.  I don’t think anybody could have caught McDowell even if they added holes.  That was drama and poor shot making at its finest.

There – back to the Blue Jays.

Why I HATE Interleague Play

Would I still think highly of this fat, jolly man if the Jays played him in the regular season? No f-ing way.

Before I begin my rant on why I can’t stand interleague play let me clarify something: I am a baseball fan.  Though the Blue Jays are my favourite team, this has nothing to do with the fact that Toronto is historically bad at it.  I don’t want to see interleague play removed simply so the Jays will have a better record (though of course that would be nice).  I want it gone because I think baseball would be better (and fairer) without it.

Now, as a baseball fan I understand the rationale behind its introduction.  The players strike of 1994 crippled (and nearly killed) baseball.  The game needed something to bring the fans back.  In 1920, baseball was saved by Babe Ruth after the Black Sox scandal nearly ruined the game.  Interleague play was the Babe Ruth of the ’90’s. 

I admit the intrigue was there at the beginning.  Watching the Jays play the Braves in June was fun.  Having Barry Bonds and Larry Walker and Albert Pujols come to Toronto was neat.  This year, until the G20 summit ruined it, welcoming back Roy Halladay would have been special.  But when a concept is implemented solely to win back fan support at the expense of the league, it is time to right the ship.

Some equate the NHL’s introduction of the shootout as a gimmick to win back fan support.  That is true, but here is the difference between the shootout and interleague play: the shootout impacts all teams equally and fairly, and all fan bases equally and fairly.  Interleague play does not.  Here are a few reasons why:

It only benefits some markets

New York Yankees vs. New York Mets, Chicago White Sox vs. Chicago Cubs, LA Dodgers vs. LA Angels.  Those are huge rivalries in huge sports markets that inflate the interleague attendance figures. 

But what about the Atlanta Braves vs. Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays vs. San Diego Padres, or Detroit Tigers vs. Arizona Diamondbacks?  Nobody cares about those matchups.  The Blue Jays used to have a great rivalry with the Tigers, but with realignment and the introduction of interleague play, now only see them six times per year, only three more times than they see Arizona, San Diego, and the Giants.  Garbage.

The schedule is unfair

To be frank, the schedule being unfair is only partly the fault of interleague play.  The unbalanced schedule is a terrible idea to begin with, as the Jays have to play three of the best teams in baseball (Boston, New York, and Tampa) 18-19 times each, while teams like Minnesota and Detroit get to play Chicago, KC, and Cleveland. 

But interleague play adds another problem.  There is no way to play each National League team an equal number of times, so baseball rotates each year.  This year Toronto faces Arizona, Colorado, San Diego, San Francisco, St. Louis, and Philadelphia.  All except Arizona are over .500 and contending for a playoff spot.  Conversely, Detroit – a team that the Jays have to beat to get a Wild Card birth – face the Dodgers, Pittsburgh, Washington, Arizona, NY Mets, and Atlanta.  Half of those games are against last place clubs.  Advantage: Detroit.

It technically benefits NL teams

Though the records don’t always prove it, interleague play should benefit National League teams.  The managers are used to the intricacies of the game, such as the double switch.  The pitchers are used to hitting.  Getting to use a DH is an added bonus.  Our friend the Blue Jay Hunter has commented on this here, so I won’t go too deep into it.

THE BIG ONE – It dilutes the power of the World Series

As I write this, Brazil is facing North Korea in the World Cup.  Though expected by many to be an absolute blowout, this match is also one of the most highly anticipated.  Why?  Because pretty much nobody in the ENTIRE WORLD has a friggin’ clue about North Korea.  They are a mysterious, secretive bunch, which makes the game exciting and intriguing.

That is what used to make the  World Series so much fun – the National League teams were exciting, intriguing, and mysterious.  Sure I could see the highlights on TV, but there was something different about actually watching Deion Sanders face Jack Morris, or John Kruk bat against Juan Guzman.  Interleague play spoils that.  How special would it be if CC Sabathia faces Roy Halladay in the World Series this October seeing how they are facing each other tonight?  I rest my case.

So Bud Selig, if you’re reading this (and I bet a $245 bottle of Johnny Blue that you’re not), do us a favour.  Give us back our normal games and save interleague for the playoffs.  The game will be better off.

And I will be happy.  At the end of the day that is all that matters…on this blog anyways.

Random Blue Jays Thoughts on a Saturday Afternoon

Jose Bautista can grow a beard faster than any man in the history of Earth (photo from daylife.com)

Despite putting about 80% of my attention on the World Cup (and, of course, betting on the World Cup), I woke up this morning with many different thoughts on my mind about the Jays.  No better place to put them than in a random Saturday column.  Here goes:

– I hate rain shortened games in baseball.  Another professional sport does not exist that allows an unfinished game to go in the record books as a final.  I don’t really have a solution, because the sheer number of games in a baseball season makes postponing/rescheduling/resuming games very, very difficult.  But the Blue Jays deserved a better fate last night.  Ubaldo Jimenez without question has been the best pitcher in the game this year, but the Jays touched him up for three runs last night, the most he has allowed in a game all season.  His ERA jumped from 0.93 to 1.16.  But the biggest disappointment was that through six innings, though the Jays were down 5-3, Jimenez had thrown 106 pitches.  That meant that the Rockies were likely going to go to their bullpen for the final three innings.  Colorado’s pen has a very good ERA (3.25, 6th overall in the MLB), but with a record of 6-12 and 6 blown saves, a win was far from a sure thing.  Unfortunately it goes into the books as a loss.  Very unfair in the humble opinion of this lowly sportswriter.

– I don’t understand the uproar I am hearing from people on the Jays decision to send reliever Rommie Lewis to the minors in order to recall Jessie Litsch.  “Why would he go down when he has pitched so well” was a common complaint.  Well friends, a 4.91 ERA in 18.1 IP is nothing to write home about, especially for a situational lefty type reliever.  With Scott Downs and an effective (albeit slightly used) David Purcey already in the pen, and Brian Tallet (a starter who really is better suited as a long reliever) already on the roster, Lewis no longer had a place.  Watching him struggle against New York and Tampa in his last two appearances (3 IP, 4 ER, 4 BB) did little to help his cause.  If Jessie Litsch is truly ready to go, he is a much better fifth starter than Brian “Billy Talent” Tallet, thus strengthening Toronto’s rotation and bullpen.  Besides, what kind of name is Rommie anyways?

– Jose Bautista is struggling.  In his last 24 plate appearances he has 0 hits and 5 walks for a .000 avg, .208 OBP, and a .208 OPS.  Perhaps pitchers have figured out a way to get him out, neutralizing his blazing start.  But forget all that.  Have you watched Jose grow a beard?  Unbelievable.  I feel like I watch a game on a Monday night and Bautista has a full, lush beard.  Then on Tuesday, he is clean shaven, perhaps trying to break out of a slump.  But without a word of a lie, by Thursday night the beard is right back, full, thick, and dark.  Incredible.

– When Kevin Gregg takes the mound in a save situation, I get afraid.  I literally almost vomited on Thursday night when he gave up a leadoff homer and put two men on.  I think I actually might have wet my pants.  Twice.  We need a reliable closer…

– If anybody had the chance to watch This Week In Baseball last weekend, you will understand what I am about to say.  The Blue Jays bullpen needs to get somebody on the team to serenade them with a song each game day.  Go to each bullpen member’s home in the morning, sit cross-legged on his bed while he is still half sleeping, and sing a song while playing guitar.  It works for Cincinnati Reds rookie Mike Leake when “Charles” Bronson Arroyo does it, so why not for the Jays?  Despite my best efforts I can not locate a clip on the internet to link to, but trust me – it was at once the weirdest, strangest, and most uncomfortable thing I have ever seen. same sites expired domains apache web server website offline link checker .

A Quick Comment on the Draft by Somebody Smarter Than Me

The 2010 MLB Amateur draft began on Monday with the Washington Nationals taking Bryce Harper number one overall.  Of all the drafts held by all the major sports, none is more labour intensive, random, and just plain long than that of baseball.  The 30 MLB teams selected 1,525 players in 50 rounds held over three days.  If the past is any indication, a very large majority of these kids will never sniff the major leagues.  But if the past is an indicator, there also might be just as much of a chance for James Rice (selected 1,525th overall by the Yankees) to make an impact as for Christian Colon (4th overall by KC).

The Blue Jays ended up with 56 draft picks and used the majority of them to select pitchers (32).  Toronto’s first pick (11th overall) was used to select Deck McGuire, a pitcher from Georgia Tech.  A few notable names from the rest of Anthopoulos’ selections include Dickie Thon Jr, son of former major league all star Dickie Thon, and Ricky Romero’s younger brother Gabriel. 

Now I won’t lie to you.  I do not know much about any of the players selected by the Jays.  I have no comment on whether or not they made sound selections.  I have absolutely no idea whether any of the players will be major league stars or if they’ll last as long in the professional ranks as I did (zero days for all of you counting). 

But luckily, 500 Level Fan knows a man who does hold some insight.  Ottawa correspondent Future Star, also known as WCF (for Willie Canate Fan), was kind enough to send a write-up into the site about one player he was particularly pleased the Jays grabbed – Omar Cotto:

One of the under-the-radar names selected by Toronto in the Rule 4 amateur draft was Omar Cotto.  One of the top Puerto Rican prospects in the draft, the Jays were drafted him in the 12th round (366th overall).  In some ways, Cotto is the typical high school aged player with undeveloped power, contact skills and defence. What makes Cotto unique is his speed, which rates as plus-plus.  In the later rounds, it probably makes sense to take athletic players with one major-league tool and leave it to the player development system to try to coax out other skills.  This appears to be the team’s current strategy (22 high school picks in the first 30 rounds) and it marks a major departure from draft day under JP Ricciardi.  Ricciardi preferred to use the middle rounds to draft college seniors, more complete players perhaps, but often players without any real high-end potential.  How fast is Cotto?  Well, another Jays draft pick, Dickie Thon Jr. is known for his blazing speed, and is the reigning 200m track champion in Puerto Rico.  On the diamond, Omar Cotto is faster.  He has sprinter speed on the basepaths. 

Cotto’s hitting skills are raw, especially from the left side of the plate, and it isn’t clear how much power he will develop.  As it stands, Cotto likely has a chance to developing into a solid, speedy CF in the mold of Dave Martinez, flashing 10-15 HR power in a good year.  The Jays will have to take their time with Cotto, he should start next season in extended spring training and make his debut with the Gulf Coast League Jays in summer, 2011.

Thanks to Future Star for his insight (notice how he threw a reference to Dave Martinez in there, another one of his favourites).  I owe you a beer pal.

For insight on other Blue Jays players and prospects check out Jays Prospects.

Battle of the GM’s – Draft Edition Part Two

Last week I posted an entry that compared the first round draft choices by each of Toronto’s three GM’s.  You can read it here.  As always, I rely on my readers to do two things: correct me when I’m wrong (as I was with Chad Jenkins) and give me ideas for future columns.  Well, not long after posting it an email came in to the 500 Level Fan headquarters at fivehundredlevelfan@gmail.com asking if I could possibly expand my analysis to the ENTIRE draft and not just the first round.

Well my friends, ask you and shall receive.

Instead of doing actual work at my day job, I spent a few hours gathering data about each Toronto Blue Jay draft pick from 1977, first round through last.  With a similar premise to last week’s article, my end goal was to determine which of Toronto’s past general managers has set the bar that Alex Anthopoulos has to match.  Again – like last week I looked at each pick and split them into categories, but this time only two: 1 – did the player make the majors? and 2 – was he a “successful” major league player.  As always, with any of these so called studies I have to clarify a few points:

– My definition of “successful” major leaguer is admittedly flawed.  I based it partially in statistics and partially in opinion.  Feel free to disagree or argue.

– Like last week’s post, it is still too early to form a definitive judgment on JP Ricciardi as a lot of his picks are still working (or trying to work) their way up the minor league system.

– I only counted players that were signed out of the draft as players who made the majors.  For instance, the Jays drafted Jim Abbott in 1985, Scott Erickson in 1988, and Ryan Franklin in 1991 but none signed with the club.  All went back into the draft and were selected by other teams in future years.

– Though the final comparison will be based on percentages (of major leaguers and successful picks) it is important to clarify that the draft was much different in Pat Gillick’s years.  While Gord Ash and JP Ricciardi had about 50 picks (roughly) in each draft, the number of rounds ranged wildly for Gillick, from 16 in 1977 to 76 in 1989.  Obviously it is much more difficult to draft a major league player in the 76th round than the 36th.

Now that the ground rules have been stated, on to the results.

Pat Gillick (1977 – 1994)

Draft Stats: 790 player selections, 124 made the major leagues (15.7%), 22 were successful (2.8%)

Looking at the table above, you can see that most of Gillick’s success came early in the draft.  Only three of his picks in round 10 or later had solid careers – Woody Williams, Jeff Kent, and Alex Gonzalez.  Overall, that is a pretty impressive list, especially when you consider how many of those players formed a core part of division title winning teams (Barfield, Moseby, Stieb, Key) and how many were huge in the World Series years (Key, Borders, Hentgen, Sprague, Olerud).

Gord Ash (1995 – 2001)

Draft Stats: 380 player selections, 36 made the major leagues (9.5%), 10 were successful (2.6%)

Similar to Pat Gillick, most of Ash’s good selections came early in the draft.  He did strike gold however with O-Dog in the 43rd round, an astounding 1,280th overall.  What is also notable, however, is that four of the selections on the table above had the bulk of their success with franchises other than Toronto.  Casey Blake, Michael Young, Felipe Lopez, and Brandon Lyon all had successful seasons for various clubs, with Lopez and Young each making all star game appearances.  While Ash had a similar percentage of players enjoying big league success, less than 10% of his picks even made the major leagues, far below the number that Gillick posted.

JP Ricciardi (2002 – 2009)

Draft Stats: 380 player selections, 25 have made the major leagues so far (6.6%), 5 have been successful (1.3%)

To this point, Ricciardi hasn’t had a lot of success in the later rounds of the draft.  But as said earlier, many of his picks are still making their way up the ranks.  In addition, several other players on top of the above list have played for the Blue Jays over the past few years, including David Purcey (1st round, 16th overall in 2004), Casey Janssen (4th round, 117th overall in 2004), Jessie Litsch (24th round, 717th overall in 2004), Brett Cecil (1st round, 38th overall in 2007), and Marc Rzepczynski (5th round, 175th overall in 2007).  Time will tell whether or not those players, and the others not mentioned (JP Arencibia, Kevin Ahrens, David Cooper among others) will have successful careers.

But one thing does stand out, as it did after last week’s first round analysis.  Pat Gillick earned a reputation as one of the greatest GM’s in recent times, and both of these studies back that up.  With over 15% of his draft choices making it to the top level of professional baseball, he definitely has a shrewd eye for talent in the crapshoot that is the MLB first year player draft.

When AA steps up on Monday to take over his first draft, he would do well to emulate the great Gillick.

What’s With the Hatred? The Jays are GOOD!

Fred Lewis is right - the Jays have been closer to #1 than to last this year (from daylife.com)

Fact: The Toronto Blue Jays blew two consecutive games in the ninth inning against Tampa.

Fact: The Tampa Bay Rays are the best team in baseball.

Relax people.  It’s not the end of the world.  Yes, the Jays probably should have won yesterday.  They definitely should have won on Tuesday.  But so what?  I couldn’t believe the negativity I heard this morning from all kinds of different people.  Things like “here comes the collapse”, or “the Jays suck, what a crappy team”, or even “it’s over – there goes the season.” 

Are you kidding me?

It’s time to step back and settle down.

I read a tweet last night from fellow Blue Jays blogger Ian at the Blue Jay Hunter that said “’tis better to have led and lost than to have never led at all.”  This afternoon I read the latest post by another Jays blogger, 1 Blue Jays Way, that said even though they sting, Toronto shouldn’t feel shame from those losses because the Rays are a very, very good team.

Well, I completely and wholeheartedly agree with both.  For all of those fans out there who are jumping off the bandwagon left, right, and centre, I hope you hurt yourself on the fall.  We should be proud and supportive of this club.  What they have accomplished so far this season is astounding.  Will they keep it up?  Who knows.  I hope so, but realistically a downfall might be coming. 

But for all of you who are hating on the Jays right now, let me point you here where Scott Miller of CBS Sportsline predicts Toronto to finish dead last, while poking fun at their no-name roster.  Or how about here where fellow Sportsline columnist Danny Knobler predicts the 2010 Jays to be in the same class as the Pirates, Royals, and Astros.  Need more?  Check out SI’s predictions (you guessed it – Toronto is last) or ESPN’s  (Jayson Stark switched it up a bit – he didn’t pick the Jays in last but placed them amongst the worst nine teams in the game).

Get the picture?  All of these so called “experts” predicted Toronto to finish the season behind Baltimore.  While they might not finish in the top-5 in the sport, they are currently 15 games ahead of the hapless Orioles.  I’m going to go ahead and say they’re safe from that result.

Bottom line is this: enjoy the start to the season.  Stop hating, stop being negative, and start smiling.  The 2010 Toronto Blue Jays are good, blown leads or not. 

Besides, wouldn’t you rather lose competitive games against the best team in baseball while staying within striking distance of the Wild Card than spend the season licking the dirt off Baltimore’s feet?

I know I would…