Monday, August 20, 2018

ten weekly random thoughts: week 20 August 13-19

Another year, another loss on my birthday. The Blue Jays record on my birthday is a dismal 17-21. Lots to discuss this week with the big league debuts of Danny Jansen and Sean Reid-Foley and the Blue Jays debut of Billy McKinney. Also mixed in will be the usual injury updates, trade talk and Gibby) news. Here are ten random thoughts from week 20 of the MLB.

1. The big and perhaps most anticipated debut of the season took place on Monday as catcher Danny Jansen, along with battery mate Sean Reid-Foley (I'll talk more about him in the next point). Jansen is the 3rd highest ranked prospect in the Blue Jays system. Before he was called up, Jansen was hitting .275 with 12HR and 58RBI. He has not looked out of place in the majors. On Saturday, he became the only Blue Jays catcher in team history to have a hit in his first 4 MLB games. Defensively, he has room to improve. He has allowed a couple of wild pitches, and has had 3 runners steal bases off him and caught two stealing. He needs to work on building a rapport with the pitching staff, but that will come with time and experience. His play will make for some interesting decisions in the off-season. At the moment, Luke Maile could be the odd man out (given that Russell Martin is the more experienced veteran and probably better to mentor Jansen as he gains experience next year).

2. As mentioned, Jansen's battery mate Sean Reid-Foley also made his major league debut Monday. In both starts, he looked a bit out of his element. Reid-Foley struggled with his command and the veteran Yankees lineup jumped all over him Saturday. I'm not sure if Reid-Foley is ready to join the Blue Jays rotation full-time. I think he could benefit from more time in the minors.

3. Another interesting decision the Blue Jays will face is the future of manager John Gibbons. On Friday, GM Ross Atkins announced that Gibbons will remain as manager of the club until the end of the season. There have been many rumors and calls to have Gibbons removed from duty as the team has struggled in 2018. This is a key decision because in the next few seasons, top prospects such as Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette will be making their big league debuts and starring in the bigs. At that point, a window of opportunity will open where the Blue Jays should be in the mix for the division title and/or a wild card spot. Upper management must ask themselves if Gibbons is the right guy to lead the team. Unfortunately, baseball is a performance based business and when a team struggles, it tends to be the manager who is the easiest target. While I hope that Atkins and co. extend Gibbon's contract, it would not surprise me if they decide to move on.

4. Billy McKinney, who was acquired in the JA Happ deal, made his Blue Jays debut Saturday. The 23-year-old left-fielder looked like a seasoned veteran in the outfield. He was confident and made some nice catches on balls hit his way. He drove in half the Blue Jays runs on a play where he almost made it to third base but was tagged out after he slid too far past the bag. McKinney should be in the mix for a spot in the outfield at training camp next year.

5. To the surprise of no one Marcus Stroman is headed to the DL with a blister on his middle finger. He originally popped it in the 7th inning of a start against the Red Sox 3 turns ago. Stroman foolishly tried to pitch through it against Tampa Bay and NY this week. He was avoiding using his secondary pitches (curve and sluder) in the starts this week and that effected his effectiveness. The training staff and manager Gibby have to start making decisions for players if they are too proud to admit injuries. Gibbons mentioned Saturday that Stroman continuing to pitch could lead to other arm injuries due to him changing his mechanics or compensating for his blister injury.

6. Another player who could be heading to the DL is Ryan Borucki who could not make it out of the 1st inning of Sunday's start. His previous start, he had to leave early with a blister on his foot. If Borucki is forced to miss a start, they could be entering Tampa Bay Ray territory where they have one or two (if Marco Estrada isn't traded) starters. The Blue Jays might consider putting Jaime Garcia back in the rotation for a start or calling up someone from AAA who may not be ready to play in the majors. Options are getting slim these days.

7. This next one is both an injury update and a trade rumor. Josh Donaldson posted a video of himself running the bases in Dunedin as he nears a return to playing. In this blogger's eyes, Donaldson still looked like he was not moving at full speed in that video and I don't think he'll return much before September 1st. If Donaldson miraculously makes it back this week and shows he is in top form, there are contending teams who may offer the Blue Jays a lower end prospect or draft pick. Donaldson pretty much has to start his rehab assignment today if he expects to play on the weekend. Miracles do happen.

8. August 31st is a deadline of sorts in the majors. It is the last day to trade for players and have them be eligible for post-season play (unless the player is replacing an injured player). Some players who could still be traded on the Blue Jays are reliever Tyler Clippard, outfielder Curtis Granderson and starting pitcher Marco Estrada. Granderson has been linked to the Yankees as they are missing a few key players (Aaron Judge, Didi Gregorius and Gary Sanchez). However, Granderson may not be considered to be much of an upgrade. Relievers are gold in the playoffs with starters typically going 5 innings. Estrada can be a 4th or 5th starter on a good team (he is kind of the ace on this sad sack team).

9. The Little League World Series is going on in Williamsport. The Canadian team is 1-1 heading into play Monday with a critical game coming against either Asia-Pacific or Mexico. Canada has played in the LLWS since 1952 and their best showing came in 1965 when a team from Stoney Creek Ontario finished 2nd in the tournament. BC has had the most teams in the LLWS (27) and Vallyfield, Quebec has been the organization representing their province the most times (8). Canadian players who played in the LLWS and went on to play in the MLB: Jason Bay (Trail, BC, 1990), Adam Loewen (Kennedy-Surrey LL, Surrey, BC, 1996), Michael Saunders (Gordon Head LL, Victoria, BC, 1996).

10. Blue Jay of the week: Danny Jansen. The rookie, who made his MLB debut Monday has a five game hitting streak and has thrown out two base runners. He's still learning the ropes of catching at the major league level but that will come with time and experience. He looks like he will be the one to replace the aging Russell Martin, perhaps as soon as next season.

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