Monday, September 10, 2018

ten weekly random thoughts: week 23 September 3-9

Well, September is now in full swing and we are getting a good look at some of the prospects we have. This week, I am going to highlight three positions and look at the depth chart. I will highlight another three positions next week and three more the week after, finishing the final week of the season with our pitching staff.. I will also look at the usual injury updates and Blue Jays news. Let's not waste anymore time. Let's get right into ten random thoughts from week 23 of the MLB.

1. I want to start things off this week talking about the outgoing Blue Jays Manager John Gibbons. At the end of the season, it is expected that Gibby and the Blue Jays will part ways. Gibbons is in his second stint as manager of the Blue Jays (he managed them 2004-2008 and returned 2013-present). John Gibbons has been my favorite Blue Jays manager because he tells it like it is. He also lets the players do their thing and doesn't do a lot of micro-managing. He's had his run-ins with players (Ted Lily and Josh Donaldson, for example). His best years as manager were definitely 2015 and 2016 when he led the Blue Jays to ALCS appearances. I don't blame Gibbons for not wanting to be part of a rebuild and face further unwarranted criticism from clueless fans who don't understand the game. All Gibbons can control is the order of the lineup and who plays what position. Also, he decides who is next to pitch and when to pull the pitcher (and yes that could be a valid criticism that Gibby has a tendency to maybe leave a pitcher out a batter or two too long at times, but he's trying to give the pitcher a chance to escape the jam and save the bullpen). What Gibbons has not control over is the performance of the players. So I say ride off into the sunset cowboy, you've earned the right to manage in a better situation.

2. Just before I start analyzing the positions, there are a couple of injury updates to get into. First, it appears that Marcus Stroman may have thrown his last pitch of the season. He was forced to leave his start early September 3 due to a recurring blister. This has been a nightmare season for Stroman right from the get-go. He started training camp with a bum shoulder that he played through for a month before relenting to a DL stint. He came back 6 weeks later and pitched better for a month before a blister developed in August. Stroman gamely (stupidly?) tried to pitch through it unsuccessfully. He missed a couple of starts and came back only to be removed again due to the blister. Part of being a professional athlete is knowing when you need to take a DL stint to heal an injury. Unfortunately, Stroman has not shown the maturity to accept a DL stint and that has hurt his performance on the field. It's time for Stroman to man up and start focusing on 2019. If Stroman has indeed thrown his last pitch of 2018, he will have a 4-9 record with a 5.54 ERA in 19 starts over 102.1 innings.

3. Another player who may have played his last game is Brandon Drury, who was acquired in the JA Happ trade. Drury played 8 games for the Blue Jays, collecting 4 hits (2 of them doubles), 3 RBI and walking twice before the Blue Jays discovered he had a hairline fracture in his hand that needed casting, stemming from a hit by pitch a couple of games prior to the trade. With less than a month left in the season, he is likely to be shut down, as per manager John Gibbons. He'll likely platoon next year with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at third base.

4. The final injury update, this time good news, is that Yangervis Solarte could be ready to return from his strained oblique injury next week. Solarte will likely see time at shortstop and third base the remainder of the season.

5. Now onto some analysis of the positions. Let's start off with catcher, where the Blue Jays will have some interesting off-season decisions to make. Danny Jansen has been with the team since August 13th. In 18 games, Jansen is batting .269 with 1HR and 3RBI. He has thrown out 22% of the base runners attempting to steal against him. Reese McGuire has started two games and appeared in 3. On Sunday, he stole his first career base, drew his his career walk and scored his first career run. He threw out one of two base runners who tried to steal against him. Russell Martin and Luke Maile more or less split the games up to August 13. Russell Martin played in 71 games at catcher this year (91 games overall). Martin is batting .194 with 10HR and 25RBI. He has thrown out 22%  of base stealers. Luke Maile has played 64 games, batting .244 with 3HR and 27RBI. Maile has thrown out 31% of base stealers. Next year, interesting decisions will have to be made. Presumably, the Blue Jays won't be carrying three catchers, unless they plan to use Russell Martin in the field more. The way I see it, two scenarios could happen, Danny Jansen should be one of the catchers and Russell Martin and Luke Maile could co-exist with Maile getting more reps at catcher. The other scenario sees Maile as the odd man out and Martin backing up Jansen.

6. The next position I would like to look at is third base. With the trade of Josh Donaldson, competition to play this position is wide open. Including Dosh, eight different Blue Jays have played at least an inning at third base (Russell Martin, Yangervis Solarte, Aledmys Diaz, Gift Ngoepe, Brandon Drury, Gio Urshela and Richard Urena have also played at third this year). Solarte has the most starts at third base (76). Presumably next year Vladimir Guerrero Jr, should be recalled and make his major league debut at third base. Russell Martin might see time if there are a lot of injuries, There could be a trade of a player or two from this list. Expect more uncertainty and instability at third base until Guerrero is established in the majors.

7. The last position I will look at this week is first base. Here we have veteran Justin Smoak who will turn 32 before spring training. The team has the option to buy him out or pay him $6 million to play next year. Rowdy Tellez, a September call-up, has been absolutely on fire at the plate batting .500 and getting extra base hits in every game he's played, except for Sunday. Defensively he was unable to catch one bad throw, but other than that has been solid. Kendrys Morales has also played some first base. If Tellez has a good spring training, he could be the backup at first base.

8. A very scary moment took place in the White Sox-Angels game Saturday. Shohei Ohtani bashed his left thigh in a collision with White Sox reliever Thyago Vieira while trying to score on a wild pitch. Luckily X-rays were negative and Ohtani played the next day. A scary moment also occurred during the Blue Jays-Indians game Sunday when Randal Grichuk slid face first into a stool held by a security guard who was trying to get out of the way of the play. It's very possible Grichuk will miss at least a game or two as concussion symptoms don't always occur right away.

9. Josh Donaldson is expected to be activated this week, likely during the Rays series. Donaldson played what would be his last game in a Blue Jays uniform May 28th. If Donaldson is indeed healthy and can get back to some semblance of the 2015 season, it could be a huge boost for the Indians, who are getting healthy at the right time. Reliever Andrew Miller is going to be activated next game vs. the Rays, Trevor Bauer is getting closer to returning and Tyler Naquin may be a possibility later in the month. Dare I say it, the Indians might make some noise in the playoffs.

10. Blue Jay of the week: Rowdy Tellez, who got off to a stellar start to his career with 8 hits (6 of them doubles and 1HR) in 14 AB his first 4 games. Tellez is the only major leaguer since 1913 to have 7 extra base hits in his first 4 games.