Blue Jays Should Invest In Rowdy Tellez… Now

Two points of clarification:
“Invest” = Give him major league game time at DH/1B
“Now” = This season

With a name like Rowdy the Blue Jays social media team is praying for this prospect to make the jump to the majors, but is that roster move in the teams hands or the players?

Tellez, a 30th round draft pick by the Blue Jays in 2013 draft is currently 23 years old and ranked 95th* overall in the MLB prospect rankings system. Despite that spot on the rankings list Tellez had a down 2017, taking the wind out of his sales from 2016 where he hit 23 home runs and collected 81 RBIs, all with a batting average of .297 in 514 plate appearances. Tellez’s 2017 numbers saw his home runs total shrink to 6, RBIs dropped to 56, and his average bottomed out at . 222 in 501 plate appearances.

After a stronger start to the 2018 season Tellez has begun finding that consistency in his game, raising his average and offensive production in AAA Buffalo this season. He’s currently hitting .255 with 7 home runs, 33 RBIs and a .331 OBP through 73 games.While these numbers aren’t elite they are trending in the right direction for the young first baseman. Things are clicking for Rowdy and it may be time to find out if he has the makings of a major league player or if he is an asset the Blue Jays can move on from.

It should also be mentioned that 2017 saw Tellez forced to leave the field for family issues surrounding his mothers health. After being declared cancer free the weight was lifted from the Jays prospect and it has allowed him to step back into his life as a baseball player. Players are people, and prospects are kids. This is a truth a lot of fans don’t grasp because of the fame and money that comes with being a professional athlete – for Tellez he had to do a lot of maturing off the field with his personal life that forced him to step away from baseball.

As mentioned his position is first base and with both Justin Smoak and Kendrys Morales occupying that job (with the other in the DH role) one would likely need to move. With the Blue Jays in a rebuild (sorry but they are) one or both could be used to acquire prospects and picks to accelerate the process. Smoak has a lot more upside for trade return because his power is matched with above average defence, but the Jays could hold onto him to help tide over the fanbase during their ‘retooling’.

Morales should be moved if there are any suitors for him, hell send over some cash and low draft picks to make a deal come to fruition if you have to. Morales is over the hill production wise and is still owed $12 million for one more year after this season. Moving him would open up a roster spot for a promotion and would also ease the books for Shapiro and co.

Now, Tellez shows a lot of promise and upside at the plate but how is he defensively? Lets say he is closer to Morales at first base than Smoak. While there is truth to the old adage “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, Tellez is just 23 and has a lot of tricks he still needs to learn. Major league exposure to first base and being the understudy of one of the best defensive first basemen in the league has nothing but upside for the Jays and is an opportunity they shouldn’t let slip away.

This season is already a wash and if Atkins and Shapiro can find some trading partners for some of their veteran trade chips, Tellez and friends could earn some late season big league reps to help them develop. Rowdy has all the makings of a middle of the order bat – strong and physically big (6’4″) with good lower body power generation in his swing. Let him adjust to major league pitching at the major leagues. The worst that could happen is the Jays find out what they have in one of their highest ranked organizational prospects.

*at 2017, has since dropped out of the top 100 in 2018.

After an AL beat down streak, Blue Jays smack back at Twins

With the series finale slated for a matinee affair on May 2nd, the Toronto Blue Jays have seemingly bounced back after getting taught some tough lessons against the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, against the Minnesota Twins.

Resilience will need to be a a key factor in the Blue Jay’s character this season if they want to hang around in the playoff race. But, as it stands the Blue Jays are doing what playoff contenders do – beat the mediocre teams and hang with the good ones.

The once thought to be strength of the Jays, the pitching rotation has shown a few chinks in the armor so far. Marco Estrada and the long ball, a tale as old as time, has been an issue this season.As well, Jaime Garcia looking for consistency in his pitching, especially against players who will make you pay. But both are nothing in comparison to the often outspoken and now under performing Marcus Stroman.

He just doesn’t have it this year – yet. Five games started, three loses, and no wins to show for it this season, Stroman is sporting a pretty damn bad ERA: 8:88. Maybe an Eric Lindros fan but more likely just an under performing pitcher, Stroman brings the heat on himself in this situation constantly talking about himself on social media. I’m not condemning the use of social media for athletes, I actually love it, but there is an expectation when you’re on it constantly talking yourself up – walk the walk, now Stroman.

I do think he’ll get it figured out, he’s simply too good not to, but the longer he takes to get his head on straight, the longer the Jays will have to wait to take another step forward.

For positives, the Blue Jays have a legit Cy Young contender on the team (so far this season, obviously). J.A. Happ, maybe the quietest player on the Jay’s roster has, quietly (how apropos) strung together ELITE numbers this year. 4-1 in 6 games started, 3.50 ERA, 12.5 strike outs/nine innings, 1.028 WHIP, and a total of 50 strike outs. Happ is pulling his weight in the rotation and setting a terrific example of veteran talent making an impact.

To go along with team resiliency, the Blue Jays have plugged players in for injured or under performing starters and had really positive results. Donaldson on the DL, Grichuk on the DL, Travis demoted to the minors, Gift Ngope not earning his spot on the bench, all have been mitigated by squad players stepping up and producing.

The infield is comfortably being patrolled by Smoak a stalwart and everyday first baseman, 2nd base covered by rookie call up Lourdes Gurriel jr. who is comfortably settling in the big leagues, Aledmys Diaz playing almost everyday at SS, Yangervis Solarte being a productive and serviceable 3rd baseman, while Teoscar Hernandez, another young call, up has cemented himself on the big league club.

They Jay’s aren’t bad – a point I will continue to stress as long as they keep proving me right. I never thought they would be, but I did think that they would have had to rely on three players to have big season: Travis to reestablish himself after injury layoff, Donaldson to prove himself in a contract year, and Grichuk to prove the Cardinals wrong for moving on from him. All three have been bad, or injured… or both, and yet, the Jays keep producing.

Until they stop acting like they’ve been here before, the Blue Jays are ready to continue shocking the league – the most recent lesson they have learned is the importance of resilience, and at the poor old expense of the Twins, too!

 

Don’t Look Now, But The Blue Jays Aren’t Terrible

Early in the season? Yes. Small sample size? Mhmm. Probably going to jinx it? You bet. Doesn’t matter though, these Blue Jays are pretty damn good! With four series now gone, the Toronto Blue Jays have yet to lose a series this season and possess an unlikely 8-5 record.

What makes this more impressive is the competition they’ve played against – two divisional rivals in the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles, another rival in the Texas Rangers, and the Chicago White Sox. So how have the Jays been winning games?

Starting Pitching 

Always believed to be the Jays strength, their starting rotation has been pretty impressive. Aaron Sanchez, J.A. Happ, and Jaime Garcia have been next level, with Stroman and Estrada looking just okay.

Sanches: 19.2 IP, 13 SO, ERA 3.66, Games Started: 3, Wins: 1, WHIP 1.424
Happ: 16 IP, 23 SO, ERA 3.94, Games Started: 3, Wins: 2, WHIP 1.313
Garcia: 11.1 IP, 12 SO, ERA 3.18, Games Started: 2, Wins: 1, WHIP 1.147

These three have been stellar, all with double digit strike outs and registered wins. Their ability to go deep in games allows for micromanaging of the bullpen as well, limiting the overuse of the reg-tag relievers the Jays have assembled.

In game two of the Baltimore series Aaron Sanchez carried a no-hitter into the 8th inning. His control was on display, and ability to mix speeds to keep hitters guessing multiple times through the order was exciting to see. Hopefully the blister issues are behind him now (knock on wood) and the Sanchize can return to form.

For Happ and Garcia it is just business as usual for two veteran guys. Locate pitches well, use that lefty starter advantage, and when hit keep the ball on the ground of popped high to get outs.

Unlikely Offensive Production

The Jays have also benefitted from getting offence from all over their order. Only one player, Gift Ngoepe, has yet to register an RBI, while ever rostered played has a hit.

Home Runs, an area thought to be dominated by Smoak and Donaldson does feature the two offensive giants at the top, however they have some unlikely company. Donaldson is tied for the team lead with three home runs with Steve Pearce and Aledmys Diaz. Yes you read that correctly. Pearce, who went back-to-back-to-back games with home runs has given himself a chance at capitalizing on the revolving door in left field. When not relied upon (see 2017 Blue Jays) he is a great bench player with utility defence and pop in his bat.

Diaz, who is likely to be the Blue Jays starting shortstop for the majority of the season, has been a solid surprise this season. With his latest home run coming in the last game against Baltimore, he has spread out his long balls this season. He is only hitting .206, but did see some time off due to an injury knock. The Jays don’t need him to be a .300 hitter if their big guns keep up their production, which does take pressure off of him to perform.

Another offensive surprise has been Luke Maile. The backup catcher has strung together some nice offensive numbers this season in limited at bats (15). With six hits he sports a .400 batting average, with three doubles and four RBI’s. This eases the pressure on Martin to play every game, as Maile has shown early that he can be relied more so than last season.

 

Despite the early season success there are a few areas that may become bigger issues for the club.

Randal Grichuk

Brought in via trade with the St. Louis Cardinals for two pitchers, Grichuk has struggled MIGHTILY at the plate so far this season. Like, he’s been really really bad. In 39 at bats he has three hits, a .077 BA, and a .140 On Base Percentage. He was never brought in to be a bog production guy, but rather a solid defensive right fielder. He has been fine defensively, but with numbers this bad he has become a liability in the line up.

Baltimore pitchers originally targeted his inability to hit the high fastball, this quickly devolved into ‘just throw the ball down the middle and see if he can hit it.’ He could not. He was given a game off to mentally rest. This resulted in a long double to centre field, but he has gone cold again since then. The Jays need to get their right fielder’s bat sorted soon, or he will not be able to recuperate his numbers this season.

Josh Donaldson

This one is two-pronged. The all-star third baseman has been a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde on the field. Offensively his is on a great pace for the season – three home runs, eleven hits, nine RBI’s, and a .352 OBP. But, defensively his is a shell of his former self. He blew Aaron Sanchez’s no hitter with a ground ball that bounced through his legs, and on top of that, cant seem to throw to first base.

The “dead arm” incident is also still ongoing. Post Baltimore series, which saw Donaldson sit the last game, Donaldson said there has been no improvement in his arm despite still playing third base. He was initially transitioned to DH as it didn’t effect his swing, but after returning to 3B it was assumed it was better. Wrong-o.

Donaldson is going to be a problem for the Jays this season. He knows they aren’t going to sign him, but that doesn’t mean they are going to trade him either. It is a worst case scenario, really, but it seems likely if the team keeps playing as well as they are. If they Jay’s remain a fringe playoff team fighting for a wildcard spot then they can’t trade away one of their offensive leaders. But, if the Jays struggle it will likely be on the back of Donaldson not being able to produce. If that is the case he won’t get any sort of return to help the Jays rebuild quickly.

What a conundrum.

Despite the weariness of two key players who feature for the team regularly, the team is still doing really well. And that is really the most important part when trying to understand the success the Jays have had this season so far – its a team effort. Not Bautista’s team, or Edwin’s team, but just a team effort. Yangervis Solarte and Kevin Pillar supporting the likes of Smoak and Donaldson offensively. While Granderson improves the clubhouse filled with youth players, and produces on the field as well.

If the Jays are destined to be a successful team this year it will be on all of their backs, not individual players. They have shown resiliency this season so far, scoring the most runs from the 7th inning on in the MLB, not quitting when behind and closing out winning games.

It should be interesting to see how it plays out, but one thing is for sure, this team is a lot better than the 2017 Blue Jays.

Blue Jays: What We Learned From a Series Split With The New York Yankees

Colour me surprised with the Blue Jays splitting the opening series against the new age Bronx Bombers, as Toronto hung in there with the predicted playoff squad. Toronto used a few different weapons to get the split, which is promising as the one trick pony Blue Jays of old, are now dead and gone. So what did we learn about the Blue Jays from the opening series of the season?

Kevin Pillar is a bad, bad man.

We all loved Superman in the outfield, but he showed off his multi-faceted offensive approach in this series. Pillar hit .462 in the first four games, with a .500 OBP. He scored the only run for the Jays in their season opener with a solo home run, netting his only RBI of the season.

What was most impressive was his three stolen bases in the series… which all came in the same game… in the same inning… and included a straight steal of home, too.

Pillar’s most enticing asset will always be his defence in centre field, but if he can string together some games with offensive production (1.269 OPS), the Jay’s will be able to surprise a lot more teams with depth offence. What has certainly helped is having Pillar hit later in the order. Previously shoe-horned into the lead off spot, Pillar is much more effective without the pressure to get on base.

Toronto’s Bullpen is For Real

Between Roberto Osuna, Ryan Tepera, Aaron Loup, and Seung Hwan Oh there have been zero earned runs, only two walks, and a combines six strike outs in seven innings of work. Tyler Clippard, Danny Barnes, and John Axford each have one earned run to their names, inflating their ERA stat, but have been serviceable and added a further eight innings of work out of the pen.

Tepera looks vintage. He delivered his pitches well with great location. Plus, with mid to high 90’s coming out of him, he completely messes with batters after seeing Estrada or Happ through 5+ innings before.

After a bit of a disappointing spring, Seung Hwan Oh has looked great in his two games played and two innings pitched against the Yankees. He has not allowed an earned run, and even has a save to his name following the series finale against the Yanks. He looks like the veteran that the Jays were after in their pen, calm, cool and able to work in versatile situations.

Osuna is great. Not sure why he didn’t get the chance to close when Oh went in the last Yankees game, but regardless he is stellar. In his first games of the season Osuna has not allowed a hit or a walk, adding an impressive strike out against Brett Gardiner. Three consecutive fastballs, three strikes, three different locations, all watched – it was an awesome out for Osuna to secure his first save of the season.

The bullpen will need to keep sharp should the Jays see any sustained success this season. Their starters are good enough to put the team in contention in every single game, but the offence has less pop and will require lockdown pitching to secure games.

Smoak is on Fire

It’s only been four games, but Justin Smoak looks like the same player from his breakout 2017 season. He is currently the owner of ALL Blue Jays offensive stat categories, average (.467), home runs (2), RBIs (8), OBP (.529), and hits (7).

Delivering the offence for a team that has moved out its big boom sticks over the passed two seasons in Bautista and Encarnacion, Smoak is more valuable than just some errant home runs. What has been most impressive has been the spray on his hits; Smoak is using the whole field. A switch hitter by trade, Smoak his both of his home runs from the left side of the plate, and muscles them to opposite centre field. Clearly the big first base man is welcoming the shift defence this season.

A six RBI game is something special, even moreso when you add in hitting the game winning grand slam against a divisional opponent. Smoak will be relied on for his big bat in this line up, along side Donaldson and Granderson who also have some pop. But he truly is a valuable player on both sides of the ball, scooping low, off base throws to first, and ripping line drives out of the air down the line.

 

It has only been four games, I know, but its promising. What was most impressive in the four game series split for the Blue Jays is the adoption of the new culture of the team. They are not relying on three or four players to produce their offence, and are not running off of the idea of outscoring their problems.

The 2018 Jays have taken on a new persona, strong starting pitching, great relief pitching, and manufacturing runs. Sprinkle in some pop from Smoak and Donaldson, and they Jays have the ability to sneak up on teams around the league. The must frustrating part of playing in Toronto, the lack of access and credit just because of geography, may be the key to their success as they will be able to surprise their opponents. One thing is for sure, the Yankees won’t be taking the Blue Jays lightly this season.