Category: Dailies

Kyle Drabek Throws No-Hitter

When the Blue Jays traded longtime ace Roy “Doc” Halladay to the Philadelphia Phillies, they gave a crystal clear signal to the rest of the league.  We are rebuilding, but we want a core to form a perennial contender, they said.  The trade netted the Jays outfielder Michael Taylor (who was subsequently flipped to the Oakland Athletics for Brett Wallace), and Travis D’Arnaud, a catcher who looked able to provide stability to the position in a few years, which has been a major problem in the organization’s past.  However, neither of these men were considered key components of the deal.  The centrepiece of the deal – the part that made the trade click – was a right-handed pitcher named Kyle Drabek.

Kyle Drabek was considered by many to be the best pitching prospect in the Phillies’ organization.  He comes from strong pedigree, being the son of 1990 NL Cy Young Award winner Doug Drabek and while hdoesn’t project to be quite as talented as his father, he is a valuable pitcher in his own right.  Many scouts predict that he will be a #2 starter on a contending team if he can stay healthy (Tommy John surgery, missed 2008) and in view of his age, he could become even more.

Drabek is healthy now and pitching in Double-A for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, the Jays’ affiliate.  However on the Fourth of July 2010, Drabek had a performance that had to make fans wonder, “Will he be in New Hampshire very long?”  Drabek threw the first nine-inning no-hitter in Fisher Cats history (a seven-inning no-hitter was accomplished by a Fisher Cat several years ago), blanking the New Britain Rock Cats 5-0 while striking out three and walking two.  He recorded another 13 outs on the ground and only allowed three line drives.  A few more groundballs would have been nice, but overall the outing was extremely solid for Drabek, easily the best of his career.

However, the dominance did not end there.  Five days later he went into Binghamton and shutout the Mets over six innings, fanning five and walking one.  This extended Drabek’s scoreless streak to 19 1/3 IP.  His record improved to 9-8 while his ERA fell to 3.03.

The only thing keeping Drabek in AA right now is Las Vegas’ nature as a severe hitter’s park.  a few more starts like this though, and Drabek will force the Jays’ hand, with an eye on a rotation spot in mid-2011. 

My 2010 All-Stars

With the All-Star Selection Show scheduled to release the teams to the fans across the world in less than 10 hours, I thought I should chime in with my All-Star starting lineup picks.

American League

C: Mauer – Severe power outage at home (0 HR at Target Field) is insignificant when compared to Mauer’s unparalellled ability to reach base and move runners along.

1B: Cabrera – Would love to give spot to Canadian Morneau, but 11 more RBI in five FEWER PAs for Cabrera hard to ignore.

2B: Cano – AL batting leader gets spot.  Closest challenger (Pedroia) is now injured and Cano was already head and shoulders above the competition.  Might as well add hips now too.  30/100 not unreasonable at this pace.  OPS just under 1.000 (.977) doesn’t hurt either, especially from a notoriously thin position.

SS: Gonzalez – Leads shortstops in SLG, OPS, HR and RBI all with a BABIP that is average to slightly unlucky.  Jeter would be closest competition but Jeter can’t hold a candle to Gonzalez with the glove.

3B: Beltre – Fenway has revived the ailing slugger.  Leads 3B in OPS and is one point behind Cano for the batting lead.  Defense is solid as ever too.

OF: Hamilton – .340/19/59.  More than one RBI per game in June.  That is all.

OF: Crawford – Low K-rate and .378 OBP led to 28 swipes

OF: Rios – Crawford with a bit less speed, more power.  Cannon arm too.

SP: Jered Weaver – Leads AL in Ks while showing no peripherals to indicate major correction looming.  Should start on his own mound.

SU: Valverde – SMALL ERA for the BIG Potato (under 1.00).

CP: Rivera – Sandman has been awoken at 40 and removed any doubt as to who the best closer in the AL is.

 

National League

C: Olivo – .926 OPS stellar from catching position

1B: Votto – Most valuable of 1B in terms of team offense,  Leads in WAR/wOBA.  Won’t make the team though, because Pujols is the popular pick in arguably his worst year.  That makes perfect sense.

2B: Prado – NL batting and hits leader deserves to start.  This one should be easy since Chase Utley just had surgery.

SS: Ramirez – Leads NL SS in HR, RBI, SB, OBP, SLG, OPS, ISO and WAR.  Closest competition (Tulowitzki) hurt, too.

3B: Rolen – Better OPS than Wright, K rate of 17% (Wright 30%).  Still the best defensive 3B in the NL if not the game.  Wright aided by absurd .402 BABIP while Rolen is at the average (.300).  I sense a correction coming.

OF:  Holliday – Most valuable OF in NL by WAR.  11 HR, 39 RBI not typical Holliday, but strong considering the funk that Pujols has been in.  A hidden defensive gem, he has also nearly won the Cardinals a game with his defense alone.

OF: Ethier – .940 OPS tops among AL OFs as is .402 wOBA.  His only knock is horrendous defense, as he ranks near the bottom of the NL in UZR.

OF: Hart – 18 HR, 60 RBI both near the top among NL OFs.  BABIP about average (.308) although 17.8 % HR/FB will correct.  Although he has not run much this year (4/7 SB) he has stolen 20+ in the past and his speed is surprising for his size.

SP: Johnson J. – Most valuable starter in NL (3.9 WAR tied with Roy Halladay) while 1.82 ERA is also the best mark.  0.96 WHIP is stellar for a SP, while 9.08 K/9 and 2.13 BB/9 build a ratio befitting of a true ace.  Despite a 3.10 xFIP which would predict correction from one of the lowest HR/FB rates in the NL, All-Stars are picked based on past and present, not projections.  In short, this is your guy.

SU: Broxton – 12.98 K/9 is nasty and 2.08 ERA shows bad luck, considering 1.32 FIP and 2.01 xFIP.  .386 BABIP is unsustainably high, so Broxton should get better.  Scary.

CP: Wagner – 14.04 K/9 even better than Broxton.  At 39, he has resurrected himself as the most dominant closer in the NL after some injury-plagued time with the Mets.  50.3% FB rate is a concern, but xFIP shows a 2.50 mark, still very respectable.  Of course, if the .168 opponents’ average (8th among NL RPs) holds up, the fly balls really won’t matter.

 

Time is Now for Promising Cecil

When I found out that Brett Cecil was being summoned to The Show in order to start in place of  Brian Tallet on Friday (April 23), I was excited.  I initially assumed that it was simply a spot start due to soreness.  Imagine my joy then when I came to the realization that Tallet was being placed on the 15-Day Disabled List.  This was in all likelihood to not just be a spot start, but three chances for Brett Cecil to showcase his skill against the potent Rays and Red Sox and offensively meager Cleveland Indians.  He pitched well in Las Vegas, a member of the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League (2 GS, 11 IP, 11 K, 2 BB) and was deserving of a chance to start in the Majors.

Brian Tallet, on the other hand, is awful.  Horrendously awful.  His entrance music from 2009, “Gimmie Shelter” by the Rolling Stones, was the most appropriate entrance music I have ever heard.  Tallet needs shelter; shelter from constantly getting shelled.  He won’t overpower anybody and his spotty command jsut provides the ultimate catalyst for disaster.  Granted, he has shaved a full BB/9 off his numbers from last year, but when his K:BB is 2:1 (6 K/9, 3 BB/9), he finds himself working out of the stretch and playing with fire for the majority of most of his short (5.89 IP per) starts.  The Blue Jays are a team that is in a transitional phase, 1 A.D. (After Doc).  They are not expected to contend right away, but they do have a glut of young talented arms that could become integral parts of the Jays’ mound future. 

This brings us back to Cecil, a Maryland product selected 38th overall in 2007 (one pick after Brett Wallace, whom we acquired in the Halladay trade).  Projected as a #2 starter on a contending team, he features a four pitch repertoire: low 90s fastball, mid 80s slider, high 70s-low 80s curve and a low 80s change.  He has consistently struck out approximately a batter per innning in the minor leagues, while keeping his walk rate in the 3 BB/9 range.  He mixes his pitches well, and kept the hitters guessing all night (8 K).  The four runs allowed in six and two-thirds did not do him justice as two came on a pair of the few mistakes he made all night, a pair of homers.  Outside of these blips, he was dominant against the team with the best record in the Majors.

Tallet is a valuable veteran on a young team, but Cecil is a promising young star.  If Cecil pitches well the next two times out, and Tallet struggles in his return, Gaston and the gang will be forced to think.

That said – Carpe Diem Brett.  Seize the day.

Lind’s Club-Friendly Deal a Critical Component for Jays

The Blue Jays got their season started on a positive note over the weekend as they inked designated hitter Adam Lind to a four year, $18M deal.  The deal includes three options that could push the value to $38.5 M over seven seasons.  Visions of Vernon Wells’ albatross and the Rios disaster which the Jays escaped (give J.P. credit) initally crossed my mind, but this deal is intelligent and has me excited.  Alex Anthopoulos has charted a great course for his franchise.  Build a core and supplement with free agents, not the other way around.  It may take some time, but when success comes, it will be lasting.

The guaranteed portion of the deal runs through his age 29 season.  The options are exercisable as three seperate options each covering one year.  The scale of $1 million in 2010 and three years of $5M each make this friendly for a budget conscious team.  The options are worth $7M, $7.5M and $8M and can be bought out at any time for no more than $2M.  The options would bring him through his age-32 season (he would be 33 at the end, July birthday).  At this point he would be entering his decline and the Jays would have had him through his entire prime.  If they were to part with him at this point, they would not be losing much.  They could also sign him for a contract of similar, or lesser value.

Since Lind’s entire value comes from his bat as a DH (he is a terrible defender), he will need to produce to make this deal worthwhile.  While he may not get up to 35 homers again, a .290/25/90 line makes this contract acceptable in my opinion and he should easily eclipse those numbers for at least the guaranteed portion.  Combine this deal with Hill, Snider and the Halladay prospects and there is a lot to like for this team’s future.

Thank you Alex, for such an incredible piece of negotiation and management.  Moves like this could bring a winner to Toronto in relatively short order.

Keep up the good work.

Adeiny Hechavarria Could Jam Revolving Door at Short

Since the days of Tony Fernandez, shortstop has been a revolving door in the Blue Jays organization.  However, it seems that the door could jam open very shortly.  The Jays are close to signing 21-year-old Adeiny Hechavarria out of Cuba to a $10 million deal.  This is more than what Boston paid for highly touted Jose Igelsias ($8M) and the difference is the more advanced bat of the Jays prospect.  After seeing Alex S. Gonzalez, Mike Bordick, Chris Woodward, Russ Adams, John McDonald, Royce Clayton, David Eckstein and Marco Scutaro roll through town, it would be nice to see a solution that could last long-term and allow the Jays to put there efforts elsewhere in trying to build a contending club.

Cuban stats are nearly impossible to find and I will post them if they become available.  I will also update when the deal is official.  Hat tip to NY Post.

UPDATE: A source just confirmed El Nuevo Herald that Adeinys Echeverria signed with Toronto for $10 millions and four years.  Thank you to Jorge Ebro, a Cuban baseball expert for the latest.

UPDATE (04/13/10): Blue Jays formally announce signing, term as previously mentioned beginning in 2010.  First name officially revealed as “Adeiny”.

The Sun Will Come Out To-Morrow

A few weeks back, the Jays sent relief pitcher Brandon League and outfield prospect Johermyn Chavez to their expansion cousins, the Seattle Mariners, for pitcher Brandon Morrow.

Initially, I was disppointed in the move, given Morrow’s abuse at the hands of the Mariners, bouncing him back and forth between the rotation and ‘pen like a ping-pong ball.  Trading Chavez initially appeared to be a mistake too as he hit .283/.346/.474 with 21 home runs and 89 RBI in A-ball as a 20-year-old.  However, upon further inspection, the deal actually seems better for the Jays than I originally thought.  At worst, it should be a classic even baseball trade.

I was disheartened by the fact that the Jays were giving up on League and his 98 mph sinker as well as that split-change that was swung on and missed 35% of the time (most for any one pitch in baseball in 2009).  I was also concerned that letting Chavez and his great arm (rated #3 in the Minors) go would rob the Jays of one of the few strong prospects they had.  That was until I looked at the numbers in closer detail.

Morrow has walked 5.83 batters/9 IP in his Major League career and will be 26 at the end of July, but is much younger developmentally and definitely has room to improve.  The key for the Jays will be to settle on a role for the young right-hander.  The Jays see him as a starter and providing that his diabetes does not get in the way, he should turn out to be a good #3 or serviceable #2 in most rotations.  Ultimately, this is where Morrow’s future lies.  His walk rates are too poor to be an effective late-game reliever.  The Jays should use him as a starter and commit to that (whether in the Show or minors) regardless of the outcome.  Every role switch is a leap back in his development and the time has come where all strides must take place in the same direction – forward.

Chavez did put up good numbers but stikes out a ton (27% in 2009 in A-ball)

League arguably had his best year in 2009 with a 3.16 xFIP, however this simply amounted to 1.0 WAR.  This seems right as top relievers rarely reach 3 WAR (Jonathan Broxton led the way in 2009, being worth 2.9 WAR).  3 WAR is what you would expect from a #2 or #3 starter (A.J. Burnett, Randy Wolf, John Danks).  That’s right, the top relievers are worth about the same as #3 starters.  That’s not the greatest advertisement for relievers.  League will all but never have a chance to close in Seattle given the presence of David Aardsma and his penchant for wildness (3.25 BB/9) would also preclude him from being considered as a backup plan.  This will provide a career path of a decent, to above-average setup man, really not that much.  1.0 WAR last year was the approximate value of Ross Ohlendorf or Jeremy Guthrie and this is around where League will likely peak.

On the surface, the trade seems rather odd.  However, the question truly becomes, “Would you trade Ohlendorf or Guthrie for Morrow?”  That requires a one word answer:

“Absolutely.”

Halladay Debacle: Blame Rests Squarely on Ownership

The story of Roy Halladay is a tale that will remain etched in the minds of Blue Jays fans for generations, as he is the greatest player that we have ever had.  The question is: which tale will be remembered – the dominant ace of Cy Young credentials; or the messy breakup, that would have been on par with the Brett Favre saga, if not for the small market?

Ever since Halladay was drafted by the Jays 17th overall in 1995, there was hope that he would return to beleaguered franchise to its former glory.  However, Labatt Brewing Company was purchased by the Belgian firm Interbrew, an organization that had virtually no interest in the success of the the team.  The team was purchased (80% share, fully shortly after) by Rogers Communications, on September 1, 2000, but it soon became apparent that they had little interest either.

J.P. Ricciardi was brought in 2002, with an order to severely slash payroll for 2003.  He did just that, slashing payroll by $25 million.  Due to payroll constraints, he was forced to let the franchise’s greatest hitter, Carlos Delgado, walk for nothing by two draft picks after the 2004 season as trimming continued.

All of a sudden, Ted Rogers comitted $250 million to be used on the payroll for for 2006-2008.  This period saw the signing of Bengie Molina, A.J. Burnett and B.J. Ryan.  Unfortunately, Molina was let go after one year, Ryan needed Tommy John surgery in 2007 and was never the same and Burnett opted out of his contract after 2008.  Injuries to many pitchers hampered 2008, but there was belief that the team was only a couple of hitters away from contention.

With the passing of Ted Rogers prior to the 2009 season, his sons assumed control of the team.  They are purely concerned witrh financial succes and cut payroll again.  They have set the team on a course of additional rebuilding.  Roy Halladay was not interested.  He wanted to win now.  That is the sign of a true athlete.

The hiring of Alex Anthopoulos in the offseason of 2009, put him in a difficult situation: trade roy Halladay because he would not re-sign after 2010.  He got three former first rounders and did the best he could.

Yes, Ricciardi made several horrendous mistakes in the media, and Anthopoulos is a rookie, but before assigning blame for the latest fiasco consider this: Were these decisions of baseball, or have these two men been unfortunate puppets of a higher authority?