Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays find themselves in a similar predicament as the Phillies. They are caught somewhere between mediocrity and contention, and in a log jam in their division. I am man enough to admit that i picked the Jays to make the playoffs in the new two wild-card format, but it may have been a year off. The team is led by last years home run champ Jose Bautista, who has found new life north of the border (what’s in the water up there?). Bautista’s slow start, coupled with inconsistent pitching has derailed the Jays playoff hopes thus far. One thing you can count on with this team is the long ball. Bautista isn’t the only player finding the fountain of youth in Canada, as third baseman Edwin Encarnacion is enjoying a career year so far with 17 home runs (career high is 26 in 08′). The team has fire power, but nothing compared to the World Series winning teams of the early 90’s. Bautista may have the pop of Joe Carter, but not the supporting cast.
Player to Watch: OF Jose Bautista
What in the world happened to Jose Bautista? His career never got off the ground in Pittsburgh due to injuries and inconsistent hitting, which earned him a trade to Toronto. Even Jose’s first season up north was nothing to write home about, but in 2010 something changed. That year Bautista belted 54 home runs (league lead), following that up with 43 the next season along with an OPS of 1.056! He came back down to earth this April, but Jose has seemed to find his stroke once again. He’s already hit 19 homers and is getting hot at just the wrong time (for the Phillies that is).
Most Hated Blue Jay: 3B Brett Lawrie
There wasn’t anyone who played north of the border that worthy any of our anger, until i saw this nugget. This feature on rookie third baseman Brett Lawrie claims that both he and Bryce Harper were born from the same fire that prometheus brought down from the gods (editors interpretation). There is something that rubs people the wrong way about guys who have an infinite motor when they play ball. Pete Rose wasn’t very lovable, just as Bryce Harper and Lawrie aren’t well liked. I can respect that level of passion and intensity for the game, but i don’t’ have to like it. Now, if the Jays were to send Lawrie over in a Cole Hamels mega deal disregard this last paragraph.
Fansided Perspective: Kyle Matte of Jays Journal reminded me just how many former Phillies prospects they have up in Toronto.
1) Right now the Blue Jays are hovering around the .500 mark. Do you think they will make a move for the wild card, or stand pat?
If you had asked me that question a week ago, I would probably have said a big move was in the works. The reason for my change of heart is the recent injury to Toronto’s best starter, Brandon Morrow. He has carried the pitching staff through the first two-plus months of the season with a 3.01 ERA and 1.00 WHIP, but suffered a strained left oblique in the first inning of Monday’s game against Washington. Given the struggles the rest of our rotation has experienced, I’m not sure the team will be able to tread water – let alone climb the standings – if he’s out for an extended period of time. With the coaching staff describing the injury as “significant”, that appears to be the case.
One of Toronto’s top infield prospects, shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, has started playing some second base down in Triple-A, and with Kelly Johnson an impending free agent, it’s possible the team could actually flip from buyers to sellers. Blue Jays fans hate to hear it, but 2013 is looking to be a more realistic target for playoff contention. Now, with all that being said, I’ll never rule out Alex Anthopolous making a big splash. We’d sure love to watch Cole Hamels pitch on a regular basis…
2) Is Brett Lawrie the answer to Jays leadoff spot, or is this an experiment not meant to last?
I really don’t see Lawrie as a long term option for the leadoff spot. His speed plays well there, but the rest of his tools suggest he belongs in the middle of the order. Sure, the power has vanished this year, but Lawrie’s swing and history suggest he should be a 20-25 home run guy with plenty of doubles and triples, and that’s someone you want hitting third, not first. People often forget he’s still only 22 years old. Beyond the future power profile, his 5.3% walk rate and .324 OBP this year are obviously not ideal characteristics for a leadoff hitter.
Toronto’s long term leadoff hitter might actually be a former Phillies farmhand, as Anthony Gose has made a strong push over the last year and a half, and appears poised to take one of Toronto’s starting outfield spots next season. Gose had a breakout 2011 season with Double-A New Hampshire, and has taken it a step further here in 2012. Hitting leadoff for the Las Vegas 51s, he has produced a .372 OBP and 9.6% walk rate while continuing to show off his wheels, going 24/29 in stolen base attempts.
3) Its been almost a year and a half since the Jays and Phillies hooked up on the Roy Halladay trade, how do fans judge the deal today?
Haha, it’s actually been two and a half years since the Blue Jays shipped their ace to Philadelphia, but time flies when you’re watching the Doc pitch, he really is that magnificent. Getting back to your question, I think for the most part Blue Jays fans are happy with the deal. No one wants to see the best player on their team get traded, but most fans realized Roy Halladay was not going to re-sign here, and a move had to be made.
At the time of the trade, Kyle Drabek was penciled in as the big return, but as I’m sure most Phillies fans are aware, he hasn’t had the best start to his career thus far. Walks, a lack of strikeouts, and inconsistent mechanics – the problems that plagued him in the minor leagues – have carried over to the major leagues. Despite flashes of brilliance – he looked incredible at times in April – he’s definitely still a work in progress. As I’m writing this, he just suffered an apparent arm injury after showing diminished velocity in two straight starts. How lovely.
The other two pieces – Michael Taylor who became Brett Wallace who became Anthony Gose, and Travis d’Arnaud – actually look like they could be the gems of the deal. As I mentioned previously, Gose looks like he could be Toronto’s long term answer to the leadoff position and center field (with Rasmus moving to left), while d’Arnaud has established himself as the premiere catching prospect in the minor leagues. Both hitters have endeared themselves to Blue Jays fans, and if they find big league success, this could end up being a great deal for Toronto. That’s not a slight against the Phillies, as this trade is one of the rare few that should be considered a win for both sides.
The Rockies will gladly welcome the Phillies after their struggles during inter-league play (0-9 to date). Losers of 8 in a row the team is struggling to put it mildly. There are some familiar names from the Rockies team that beat the Phillies in the playoffs a few years back, but a lot has changed. Troy Tulowitzki is on the DL once again, and the team can’t find a quality starter for the life of them. Keep in mind this is the team that had Jamie Moyer in their rotation out of spring training. This is no disrespect to Moyer, but if you’re willing to give a 49 year old pitcher a spot in your rotation its not a good sign. Hopefully for the Phillies the Rockies won’t figure things out over the weekend prior to their matchup. Plus, they won’t have that Rocky Mountain thin air to help them out either.
Player to Watch: OF Carlos Gonzalez
Carlos, or “Cargo” to his fans, is enjoying another stellar season for the Rox. He leads the league in runs scored, and is posting a .992 OPS. This is one i bet Billy Beane wishes he had back. The A’s GM included Gonzalez in the Matt Holliday deal in 2009, who was only a rental on his way to St. Louis. Gonzalez on the other hand has blossomed into an MVP caliber hitter, who has only been slowed by a few minor injuries thus far. He is carrying the Rockies this season with Tulo out of the lineup, but unfortunately he can’t pitch. Cargo may not make it back to the playoffs this year, but he is on the short list for early MVP candidates.
Most Hated Rockie: 1B Jason Giambi
The Rockies sure have a thing for guys over 40. Giambi is in the twilight of his infamous career, hanging on as a lefty bat coming off the bench. In many ways he is the anti Jim Thome. Both players are well past their prime, but still have enough juice to come off the bench and pop one. The only difference is that people like Thome. Giambi has always been a little rough around the edges, but took a beating after his name surfaced during the steroid scandal. The onetime Oakland A and New York Yankee will most likely retire after the season is through, but with the stain of being a cheater.
Fansided Perspective: Zach Pugh of Roxpile defends the Rockies acquisition of Jamie Moyer in our Q & A. You are a gentleman and a scholar.
1) It’s been a disappointing season for the Rox, but to no fault of Carlos Gonzalez…NL MVP?
Carlos Gonzalez is a joy to watch and cover. He has been one of the few bright spots to this season for the Rockies. However, there have been times this season where he clearly got lazy defensively on the field, which can tend to taint the good he has done on the field. Having said that, there is no arguing how important Gonzalez is to this team. His .321 batting average in 232 bat-bats leads the Rockies, but not the National League. So far, San Francisco’s Melky Cabrera statistically is having a better season than Gonzalez. Cabrera has fewer strike-outs in more at-bats than Gonzalez and has a ridicules .365 batting average. Right now Cabrera is the favorite to win NL MVP, but Gonzalez has proved his worth to the Rockies.
2) I almost traded for Troy Tulowitzki in my fantasy league until i saw he re-aggravated his hamstring. Will injuries always be an issue for him?
Troy Tulowitzki has battled his fair share of injuries in his seven year career. In 2008, Tulowitzki suffered a torn left quadriceps tendon and missed 47 games. Last year, he missed games with a quadriceps issue, and missed the final games because of hip flexor pain. And of course his trip to DL this season is because of a left groin strain. Tulowitzki hasn’t played since May 30. One thing about Tulowitzki is the all out effort he puts forth every game is well known, but the all out play and link to his injuries can’t be ignored. He hates missing games and playing though injuries does raise a concern. The last thing the Rockies need is their highest paid player missing more games then necessary because he’s playing trough pain of a nagging injury. Injuries could very well always be an issue with Tulowitzki because he holds absolutely nothing back.
3) The Rockies experimented with Jamie Moyer before letting him go, was this just a move to score some baseball karma points?
I truly believe the move to bring Jamie Moyer in had nothing to do with media coverage. Many local radio hosts here in Colorado have called the move a gimmick and resulted to cracking jokes about Moyer, while ignoring the value of him. I disagree with calling him a gimmick. If you look back to his first four starts, he allowed 11 runs, six earned. He wasn’t great, but what helped Moyer get through line-ups and where he showed value, was he knows how to pitch. Something that is very valuable to teach the young pitchers in the Rockies’ rotation. You can call Moyer an experiment, but the Rockies saw value in him and truly believed he could be an asset in the rotation. It didn’t work out; however nothing is working out for the Rockies’ pitching staff.