Monday, July 15, 2019

Ten weekly random thoughts: Week 15: July 8-15

The all-star break is over and the unofficial second half began Friday at Yankee Stadium for the Blue Jays -- fitting because at least one pitcher (Marcus Stroman) may be in pinstripes in a couple of weeks. While his teammates escaped Toronto for a few days, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was serving notice to the MLB that he is/will be a force to be reckoned with in the final 2.5 months of the season. Guerrero Jr. hit a whopping 91HR, including a ridiculous 40 dingers to edge Joc Pederson in the semi-finals of the HR derby. Guerrero Jr. ran out of gas in the final round and was edged by the NY Mets Pete Alonso, who needed to hit a fraction of the HR to win. Alonso need to hit just 14 HR in the 1st round, due to a poor showing by home town favorite Carlos Santana. He also got a lot of rest between rounds with the marathon matchup between Guerrero Jr. and Pederson. Regardless of not winning the HR derby, Guerrero Jr. did excellent on the big stage. The Blue Jays have a fairly favorable schedule this week with a four game series at Fenway Park, followed by a three game set against the Detroit Tigers, who the Blue Jays split four games with in the season-opening series way back in March. The Blue Jays are 5-7 vs. the Red Sox this season, but the Red Sox have not looked like the team that won the world series in 2018. Meanwhile, Detroit is dead last in the AL Central and also soon to be parting ways with some of their veterans. Here are 10 random thoughts from week 15 of the MLB.

1. Aaron Sanchez didn't exactly quell the doubters concerns about him remaining in the rotation after Friday's start. He did ok in the first 4 innings, but then gave up 4 runs on four hits and a hit batter. Sanchez allowed runners to reach base in every inning. Both he and Yankees starter Domino German had 54 strikes. However, German was much more efficient with 78 pitches and scattering 3 hits and not walking a batter and he pitched an extra inning. Sanchez allowed 7 hits and walked 2 batters over 95 pitches and 5 innings. Sanchez can now refuse any move to the minors as he passed the 5 years of MLB threshold on Monday. He did look better this start with his pitches looking more dynamic. I still think he needs to be in the bullpen if not this season than the next season.

2. The Blue Jays had some unfortunate luck with injuries this weekend. First Clayton Richard left his start after two innings and 30 pitches with a back strain. He had struggled for much of his early time with the Blue Jays, posting a 1-5 record with 6.23ERA in 9 starts after missing the first two months of the season with a stress reaction in his knee. Luckily, there may be relief coming in the next week or two with Ryan Borucki and Edwin Jackson both on rehab assignments. Jackson is likely to be ready to return sooner as he's only been out a month, whereas Borucki hadn't thrown a pitch until the end of June all season. Ken Giles was also unavailable to close Saturday after a freak massage incident that caused nerve inflammation in his elbow. The ramifications of his injury are more significant as if it lingers, it could affect his trade value.

3. Let's take a look at the players who are likely to be gone by July 31st. I'm going to break it down by starting rotation, bullpen and position players. In terms of the starting rotation, Marcus Stroman is the only starter likely to be dealt by the deadline, partially due to the performance of other starters (see point 1) and injuries. When the season began, the rotation was supposed to be anchored by ace Stroman, followed by Matt Shoemaker, Richard, and Sanchez, with Clay Buchholz, Trent Thornton and Ryan Borucki competing for the 5th spot. Borucki (see point 2), Richard and Buchholz all suffered injuries in spring training and started the year on the IL. Shoemaker made 5 starts before tearing his ACL in Oakland. Buchholz returned in the 3rd week of the season, made five starts before injuring the teres minor muscle in his back. Trent Thornton was pressed into action as a rookie. He's been steadily improving as a starter all season, and has a 3-6 record with a 4.85ERA in 19 starts. The Blue Jays signed veteran Edwin Jackson, who was 1-5 with a 12.43ERA in 7 appearances (5 starts) before he injured his back. Stroman had a crucial start Sunday after missing his last start before the all-star break with a pec injury. Stroman threw 6 innings on Sunday and even though he lost (again), getting through those 6 innings with no apparent discomfort was more important than the outcome. The Yankees and Twins have expressed interest in the righty.

4. The bullpen also suffered early injury woes with Ryan Tepera and John Axford both suffering elbow injuries and missing the beginning of the season. Tepera came back, made 12 appearances with an 0-2 record and a 6.55ERA before he was shut down and had surgery to relieve an ulnar nerve issue. David Phelps was expected to start the year on the IL as he continued to recover from 2018 Tommy John surgery. He returned in June, and could be a candidate to be traded. Phelps threw 1.1 perfect innings striking out 3 batters Saturday. He has proven that he's over the TJ surgery and could be a very effective reliever in the playoffs. Giles, assuming he proves to be healthy after the freak massage injury, is also expected to be dealt with the Twins and Braves showing interest.

5. As far as position players go, Freddy Galvis, Justin Smoak and Eric Sogard are the possible veterans to be traded. Galvis has done an admirable job at SS defensively with 15 HR and 44RBI. If he is traded, there is a strong possibility that Bo Bichette will make his MLB debut either in August or as a September call-up. Sogard was signed as a free agent in December. He has also been very reliable as an utility infielder, seeing time at 2B, SS, 3B  and RF. Sogard has also arguably been the team's best hitter, batting in the leadoff spot with a .295 average, 9HR and 26RBI. No doubt there will be teams asking about him. This brings us to Justin Smoak, who is on an expiring contract. The Blue Jays will have to accept less to get rid of him, but might do so to get a good look at Rowdy Tellez, who has largely split time between 1st base and DH'ing. Smoak is batting .215 with 14HR and 37RBI.

6. The infield next year could feature four players who were in the minors the past 2 seasons: Vlad at 3B, Bichette at SS, Biggio at 2B and Tellez over at 1B. Guerrero Jr. and Biggio have both established themselves as bonafide big leaguers and will surely be locks to make the team next year. Bichette jas been tearing it up in Buffalo and deserves a promotion to the bigs, certainly as a September call-up when rosters expand. Tellez has been largely below average at the plate, but seems the only MLB ready option at 1st base at the moment. Devon Travis's days as a Blue Jay appear to be numbered. There are too many viable options within the system and via free agency or trade next year. Besides, Travis has not proven himself capable of staying healthy. It's time to move on from Travis and focus on our prospects.

7. What a moving tribute the LA Angels gave to the deceased Tyler Skaggs on Friday. The evening started with Skagg's mom throwing a perfect strike in the opening pitch ceremony. Then the Angels batters proceeded to spank the Mariners with 13 runs, including 7 runs on 13 hits (Tyler Skagg's birthday was July 13th) Mike Trout's 1st inning HR measured 454feet (Skaggs wore #45). The pitcher did their own in-game tribute by combining to throw a no-hitter. Well done to the Angels and RIP Tyler Skaggs.

8. Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli is facing a ton of uncertainty with his playing future at his chosen position. His situation reminds me a lot of Josh Thole back in 2012. Thole suffered a concussion at the end of April that season and ended up changing the style of mask to a hockey style mask, as opposed to the padded mask you see many catchers wearing around the league, including both Danny Jansen and Luke Maile. Here's hoping Cervelli can turn his situation around and get back to playing the game he loves and at his preferred position.

9. Let's end this week by looking at the Blue Jays recent trade history. For the next couple of years, the Blue Jays are likely to be sellers. It's difficult to convince fans that there is a reason to have hope when every year your team is trading away the best players. At some point, the Blue Jays should try keeping their star players around.

10. Blue Jay of the week: Randal Grichuk who drove in three of the Blue Jays 4 runs against the Yankees. It might have been Vlad getting the honors this week but he was blah in the weekend series in New York.