Monday, June 11, 2018

Ten weekly random thoughts - week 10 - June 4-10

One week into June and things are looking up for the Blue Jays. They won 4 in a row for the first time in 8 weeks, they got their first series win since the May 25-27 series against the Philadelphia Phillies and their first series sweep since April 17-18 vs the KC Royals. Both the bats and the pitching have come around this week, saving John Gibbons job for now. Here are ten random thoughts from the 10th week of the MLB.

1. The big news of the week was Vladimir Guerrero Jr. pulled himself from a ball game this week after limping into second base. He has a strained petellar tendon and expect Toronto to take every precaution with their top prospect, who has been ripping up AA baseball this season. He will be re-evaluated in a month and a decision will be made on his return at that time. Guerrero Jr. will be promoted at some point to Buffalo and likely won't see major league action until next year.

2. Josh Donaldson is nearing a return to action. He has been on the disabled list since injuring his calf against Boston on May 28. Donaldson has struggled with injuries all season, dealing with a wonky shoulder that has affected him in the field and at the plate. The Blue Jays need Donaldson's bat in the lineup as he is a power threat when he is on. At the very least, they need him to get hot to increase his trade value.

3. Steve Pearce is slowly progressing from his oblique injury. He has started taking live batting practice and could begin a rehab assignment sometime this week. Pearce would platoon with Hernandez and Granderson for playing time in the outfield.

4. Another injured player making progress is starting pitcher Marcus Stroman, rehabbing an inflamed shoulder. He threw a three inning stimulated game on Friday and reportedly felt great. He could also go on a rehab assignment this week and be back later in the month. Stroman has had a very difficult season so far, giving up 5 or 6 runs most games. One has to wonder if the shoulder is to blame for his performance. He dealt with inflammation in his shoulder and started the 4th game of the season. Hopefully a healthy Stroman can pitch to his potential.

5. Ryan Tepera is easing into the role of closer quite nicely. He is 3 for 3 in save opportunities. Tepera is the second reliever to get the opportunity to close since Osuna's arrest. Tyler Clippard blew a couple of saves and was relegated back to being a middle-innings guy. The challenge has been getting a lead to Tepera. It makes me nervous when most of the other relievers are brought into the game. Seunghwan Oh has been lit up in recent games. John Axford throws hard but he can give up walks and runs. Aaron Loup can be hot/cold on a given day. Danny Barnes has struggled this season too. Joe Biagini failed as a spot starter and is failing in a relief role too. On Saturday, Biagini failed to record an out with the 2 batters he faced and one came around to tie the game. Sunday he loaded the bases but got out of it allowing just a single run.

6. The Blue Jays will miss seeing a couple of star players. Shohei Ohtani left his last start on Wednesday with a blister and elbow problem, later diagnosed as a second-degree sprain of his UCL. The Angels knew that Ohtani had a first degree tear of his UCL when they signed him. Ohtani received a PRP and stem cell injection and will be re-evaluated in three weeks. There's every possibility he will require Tommy John surgery, which would end his season and put 2019 in jeopardy as well. Stephen Strasburg was placed on the DL Saturday with shoulder inflammation as he left his start Friday after 2 innings. This means the Blue Jays will not face Strasburg next weekend in Toronto.

7. The Seattle Mariners became the third team to reach 40 wins this season. The Mariners are in a tight battle with the Houston Astros for first in the AL West. Both teams have been doing it under the strength of their pitching staff. James Paxton is 5-1, including a no-hitter vs. your Toronto Blue Jays back in May. Seattle is 20-8 in 1-run games, which will bode well in the playoffs when the pitching tightens up and scoring becomes more difficult. Closer Edwin Diaz has saved 22 games for the Mariners.

8. In light of the Washington Capitals win, there are several baseball teams with lengthy title droughts. The Cleveland Indians last won in 1948. The Texas Rangers have never won a  World Series (been in the league since 1961). The San Diego Padres, Milwaukee Brewers and Washington Nationals have also never won a championship (in existence since 1969, including the old Montreal Expos franchise which relocated to Washington in 2004. Seattle is winless since 1977. Out of these 6 teams, the Cleveland Indians likely have the best chance to win given their lineup and pitching staff. The Mariners are playing well, but can they keep it up the rest of the season? Washington probably has to win this year with Bryce Harper becoming a free agent after the 2019 season. Milwaukee will be battling for a playoff spot with Chicago and St. Louis. San Diego and Texas are both in rebuilding mode and are a few years from contending. Toronto, which has not won in 24 years, is looking like they will have to wait at least another season or two, as they have dug themselves too deep a hole with the Red Sox and Yankees playing good baseball in 2018.

9. The all-star game also typically features some first time all-stars. Here is a selection of players who could make their first all-star appearance. As a Canadian, I would love to see James Paxton selected. JA Happ is also a strong possibility to be selected as a first-time all-star. This year's all-star game is in Washington, so designated hitters will not be used.

10. Blue Jay of the week: Randal Grichuk. The Blue Jays right fielder was 8-21 this week and scored 5 runs and drove in 5 himself. Hopefully Grichuk and the Blue Jays can carry the momentum of this series sweep into Tampa Bay this week.