Here we are, a month into the 2019 regular season. The highlight of this week was the much-anticipated MLB debut of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. The son of former Expo Vladimir Guerrero, Guerrero Jr. has quickly advanced through the minor league system, bathing well over .300 at each of the single-A,, double-A and triple-A levels, hitting well above .300 at each level. Guerrero Jr.'s defense has been steadily improving as well. This week, former Blue Jays Kendrys Morales and Kevin Pillar made their return to the Roger's center. Marco Estrada should have also been in Toronto but he is injured and thus was not on the trip with Oakland. The Blue Jays now embark on a week long road trip that will see Vladimir Guerrero Jr. play in Anaheim, where his father Vlad Sr. spent six seasons. Guerrero Jr. will also visit Arlington Texas, where his father played a season in 2010. Here are ten random thoughts from week 4 of the MLB.
1. Not too much in the way of injury updates this week. Pitchers David Phelps and Clayton Richard are both progressing from respective elbow (Phelps had TJ surgery in March 2018) and knee injuries. Both Richard and Phelps threw bullpens this week and both could be sent on rehab assignments soon if all goes well. Richard was 7-11 with a 5.33 ERA in 27 starts last season. Phelps was 4-5 with a 3.40 ERA in 54 appearances in 2017. Richard would certainly have an opportunity in the rotation with Shoemaker done for the year and Trent Thornton struggling with control issues. Phelps would likely be a middle innings reliever, pitching an inning max.
2. Aaron Sanchez made his start Saturday after leaving hs previous start with a broken fingernail. In 2017 and 2018, Sanchez had his seasons cut short, making just 8 starts in 2017 and 20 starts in 2018 with varying finger injuries. Sanchez has been pitching well this season with a 3-1 record and a strong 2.82ERA. The walks are a concern as Sanchez currently has a league high 20 walks. One factor may be having to learn new grips to prevent blisters from cropping up. Sanchez also commented after Saturday's start that he was overthrowing, which might affect accuracy. Here's hoping Sanchez can return to his 2015 form that saw him compile a 15-2 record with a league-best 3.00ERA. Sanchez made the AL all-star team that year and finished 7th in Cy Young voting.
3. Freddy Galvis was injured in the final inning on April 21st, tweaking his hamstring while fielding a ground ball. The Blue Jays shortstop saw his consecutive games streak end at 348 games Wednesday. Galvis missed three games this week, but had pinch hit appearances Tuesday, striking out. He also pinch hit on Sunday and remained in the field with the bench empty. Galvis hit a long single and eventually came around to score the game-winning run. It was clear that Galvis was not 100% on Sunday. If healthy, he should have had a double in the bottom of the 11th. It's possible that the team opts to put him on the 10 day IL and recall the red-hot Lourdes Gurriel Jr., who is batting .348 in Buffalo
4. I was overall impressed with Vladimir Guerrero Jr.'s debut in a Blue Jays uniform. He had hits in all three games, including a clutch lead-off double that jump-started the game winning rally. He was solid on defense, displaying a cannon of an arm. Sure Guerrero Jr. struck out three times over the course of the three games, but he is facing pitchers he has never faced before and the caliber of the pitchers he is facing is higher than what he saw in the minors. Ahead of Guerrero Jr.'s debut, Charlie Montoyo preached patience as the top prospect adjusts to life in the MLB. I think Guerrero Jr. will be a force to be reckoned with and he'll pass his father in many of the stats a decade from now.
5. The base running rule about sliding into second base played a prominent role Saturday. On October 10, 2015, Chase Utley snapped the fibula of Ruben Tejada on this intentional slide meant to take out the Mets second baseman. As a result, the MLB amended the baserunning rule, banning players from kicking a leg or throwing their body into the fielder as they slide. Baserunners have to make a bona fide attempt to slide into the base and remain on the base. In the bottom of the 1st, on this play, Randal Grichuk was initially called for an illegal slide, which would have ended the inning with no runs scored. The Blue Jays challenged and the call was overturned with Grichuk called out and Hernandez safe at first. allowing two runs to score. In the top of the 5th, on this play, A's infielder Jurickson Profar slid to the left of second base attempting to break up the double play. This time, the slide was ruled ok (and upheld after the challenge).However, you can clearly see on replay that Profar did not attempt to slide into the bag, he missed by a good six inches, and he only attempted to touch the bag AFTER Eric Sogard released the ball. By definition, the first slide by Grichuk was legal and the second slide by Profar was illegal and should have been an automatic DP.
6. The Blue Jays signed Ben Revere to a minor league deal Saturday. Revere will initially report to extended spring training as he preps for the season ahead. You have to wonder if Socrates Brito's days are numbered. Brito has been an unmitigated disaster at the plate, performing about as well as Gift Ngoepe, who was eventually released by the team in August last year. This will be Revere's second stint with the team. He was acquired at the July trade deadline 2015. In 56 regular season games, Revere hit .319 with 1 HR and 19 RBI. In the playoffs against Texas, Revere batted .304 with a RBI and 2 stolen bases. Against Kansas City in the ALCS, Revere batted .205, drawing three walks and striking out 7 times. Revere was subsequently traded almost five and a half months after being acquired to the Nationals in exchange for Drew Storen, who was DFA'd after posting an ugly 6.21ERA in 33 1/3 innings. Revere has essentially been out of baseball since 2016, save for minor league deals with the Angels, Rangers and Reds, none of which lasted longer than a month.
7. This is one of those weeks where I'm finding myself scraping the bottom of the proverbial barrel for points on this week's random thoughts post, in part due to the two off-days this week and not a lot happening in the Blue Jays world. I came across a fascinating post on the blog Bluejaysnation.com that takes a look at the challenges that 33rd round draft pick, and Vancouver BC native, Brayden Bouchey goes through. Not a lot of players drafted this late are profiled and Bouchey being a native of my hometown, it's a great read.
8. Angels 1B/DH Albert Pujols passed Barry Bonds for 3rd all-time in RBI. Pujols is 9 RBI behind Alex Rodriguez for second place all-time officially. Hank Aaron holds the all-time record with 2297 RBI. RBI's only started being counted as an official stat in 1920, so players such as Babe Ruth and Cap Anson, who technically have 2000+ RBI are not officially recognized as being members of the 2000 RBI club. Some websites, such as baseball-reference.com, retroactively accrue such stats prior to 1920. Pujols should catch Rodriguez for 2nd place, but it is unlikely he'll surpass Hank Aaron.
9. Finally let's end things off this week with something adorable. Check out Clayton Kershaw's son throwing a pitch after the Dodger's victory Sunday. The resemblance in throwing styles is striking. Maybe in a decade or so, we'll be seeing Charley pitching in a real MLB game. If he does, he'll be doing so as a righty, unlike his southpaw father.
10. Blue Jay of the week: Brandon Drury. The Blue Jays second baseman was clutch this week, hitting a walk-off home run Friday and a game-tying home run Sunday. Hopefully he takes this good week and does week next week.