The Toronto Blue Jays went from the top ranked system in baseball (according to John Sickels) to one of the worst. Of course when your team deals nearly half of the top 15 list I compiled last season including basically the entire top five that is bound to happen. The farm system is there to make the major league roster and as we have discussed before that is exactly what Alex Anthopoulos used it for.
The top five was 1) St. Louis, 2) Seattle, 3) Tampa Bay, 4) Texas and 5) Pittsburgh.
22) Toronto Blue Jays (1): Another system gutted by recent trades by a team pushing to win in 2013. Remaining strengths: pitching, with Aaron Sanchez, Roberto Osuna, Marcus Stroman, and underappreciated Sean Nolin a nice quartet at the top and more live arms behind them. Weaknesses: they have a lot of tools guys who haven’t shown they can play baseball yet. If they pan out, the Jays will move back up the list quickly.
Rounding out the list in dead last at #30 was the Detroit Tigers. This was not a surprise as there system has lagged the rest of the league for quite a few years.
Stay tuned for the 2013 version of the top 15 Blue Jays prospect list. I am waiting on a few sources to release there rankings so I can fine tune the list with the most updated and current information.
It is bitterly cold in Southwestern Ontario but the thought of pitchers and catchers reporting in less than twenty days is certainly helping. Sorry for the lack of activity lately but it’s been pretty slow in the world of the Blue Jays and baseball in general. Getting ready for the season though and we will be back up to full strength and posting frequently again!
Be on the lookout for the 2013 Top 15 Blue Jays prospect piece!!
Here are some updates:
-The Blue Jays avoided arbitration with center fielder Colby Rasmus, agreeing to a one-year, $4.675MM deal, MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm reports (on Twitter).
QUICK TAKE: This is probably the last stand for Rasmus as a Blue Jay. I am not overly optimistic that he will ever reach the lofty predictions of success when he first entered the league but he comes at a reasonable price. If he slips or struggles the team has youngster Anthony Gose waiting in the wings.
-The Blue Jays announced that they signed infielder Mark DeRosa to a one-year, $750K contract for 2013. The deal with the CSE client includes a $750K club option for 2014.
Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos has said he’d like to add a versatile right-handed hitting player to round out the club’s active roster. DeRosa, who turns 38 next month, bats from the right side and has experience at a variety of positions.
QUICK TAKE: I like this signing. Our bench was almost useless last season and we wasted hundreds of ABs on less than stellar options. This low cost move made sense.
–Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports examined the six worst teams in the American League in 2012 and looked at what steps they’ve taken to improve in the New Year. The Blue Jays have obviously done a great deal to reverse their fortunes, but Morosi does have some concern about how the stars will mesh with one another.
QUICK TAKE: Again, it’s a long offseason and I guess this is something to write about. I think the whole ‘chemistry’ thing in baseball is extremely overrated. The Blue Jays aren’t guaranteed success because that is the nature of baseball but it won’t be due to chemistry, it will have to do with performance or bad luck statistically.
-The Blue Jays announced that they avoided arbitration with Emilio Bonifacio by agreeing to a one-year, $2.6MM deal. The Blue Jays also announced that they avoided arbitration with J.A. Happ, agreeing to a one-year, $3.7MM deal for 2013.
-Anthopoulos hopes the rotation provides enough innings that the team doesn’t need to seriously consider an eight-man bullpen. The Blue Jays have a pretty full bullpen, so it doesn’t appear as though free agent right-hander Brandon Lyon will return. “I don’t want to ever close the door on him, since he did a great job for us,” Anthopoulos said.
-Good news on the bullpen front as Darren Oliver is returning for the upcoming season. The left handed specialist had a superb season and adds further depth to what is shaping up to be a stellar bullpen. Oliver posted a 2.06 ERA with 8.3 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in 56 2/3 innings this past season. Despite his advanced age, Oliver has made more than 60 relief appearances in each of the past four seasons.
-The Blue Jays signed 18-year-old right-hander Denis Villatoro to a five-year contract, Saúl Carranza of the Honduran newspaper Diez reported over the weekend (translation via MLBTR’s Nick Collias). It’s a five-year deal, according to La Tribuna. Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun notes that it’s worth $20K (Twitter link). Villatoro, who worked out for the Blue Jays before signing, said he’s “very happy” to have agreed to terms with Toronto, Carranza reports. His fastball reaches 93 mph, and he also drew interest from the Orioles, Yankees, Mets, Astros, Giants and Pirates.
Well, perhaps that title’s a little strong: being banned for life suggests that Pete won’t be enshrined anytime soon. Pete Rose was a baseball player in the major leagues. Then Pete Rose was a manager in the major leagues. Then Pete Rose was caught betting on games in the major leagues while he was managing. Then Pete Rose was banned for life. Then the drama and lying and whining and cajoling kicked into high gear. Despite all the histrionics, however, Pete Rose remains banned for life. I don’t think Pete Rose should be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Ever.
Every year when the voting for potential recipients of Major League Baseball’s most enduring honour occurs, Pete Rose enters the discussion. Being the all-time hits leader in Major League Baseball history will have that effect. The conundrum created by the all-time hits leader NOT being in the Hall of Fame is just too much for some people to accept. Now, with such players as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens being considered and other holdovers from the PED Era still on the ballot (McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro, etc.), the issue of who deserves to be enshrined is being asked again. Expect this to be the case on a yearly basis.
Pete Rose by the Numbers
4,256. That’s the main number. That’s the number of hits Pete Rose accumulated in his long major league career. It’s the top number in ML history and, if things continue at the present rate, no one will challenge him any time soon. However, hits are but one statistic on the spectrum of numbers available to us. What does he look like in other facets of the game? Is he really a no-brainer when it comes to Cooperstown consideration?
Pete Rose was generally a poor defender. The statistics available to evaluate defensive performance hate him. But the thing is that he played multiple positions for hundreds of games each.
Rose remains the only player in major league history to play 500+ games at five different positions (1B, 2B, 3B, RF, LF). Total zone rates him at: -44 in 939 G at 1B; -21 in 628 G at 2B; -35 in 634 G at 3B; +51 in 673 G in LF; and +1 in 590 G in RF. Clearly he didn’t add value to his teams when he played the infield, but he was an above-average corner outfielder. For the record, his total zone rating in 73 G in CF was -8.
Unfortunately for his teams, Pete played far more ‘games’ (taking into account full and partial games, double switches, etc.) in the infield, where he was anchored both early (2B) and late (1B) in his career. Also unfortunate is that Pete Rose was bad at a number of defensive positions, and he played hundreds of games at positions for which he was ill-suited.
Pete Rose was a poor base runner, too. He consistently ranked below league average in base running skills. While his 198 SB are a modest accomplishment for a player who was a middle infielder who played 3,562 games, his 149 CS belie the fact that he was a sub-par base stealer. He earned his -13.7 wSB/BsR figure. But SB aren’t the only factor in base running. For his part, Pete possessed average speed: his career 4.7 SPD (speed) score is right about middle of the pack.
Pete’s relatively poor performance in the field and on the basepaths puts an inordinate amount of pressure on his offensive skills in order to consider him a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame. It’s one thing to consider someone like Rogers Hornsby a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame based on one super dimension. His offensive performance in the 1920s was other-worldly. Can we consider Pete on the same basis as ‘The Rajah’?
Putting on our SABR hats for a minute or two, Rose is 25th all-time in base out runs added (RE24), meaning he’s surrounded by Hall of Famers and legit Hall of Fame candidates. Okay, what else is there to commend him? Pete typically walked a lot more than he struck out, and he walked a good amount (9.9%, career; 14th all-time in BB). This, combined with his legendary hits total, means we should expect to find him on base regularly. Indeed, that’s what we find (.375 OBP, career; 211th all-time). He had very little home run power (career high 16 on two occasions; 160 HR, career), but led his league in 2B five times (746 2B, career; 2nd all-time), leading to an unexpected .409 SLG. An undistinguished number of triples (135, which is one behind Babe Ruth and good for 75th all-time), means that 3,215 of Rose’s 4,256 hits were singles.
His offense was excellent but, outside of his hitting prowess, it’s not exactly eye-popping. This is reflected in his fWAR performance. While his career peak lasted for a long time (1965-1976), he achieved MVP-level performance (if we use 8.0 fWAR as a baseline) only once: in 1976, at the peak of the Big Red Machine’s dominance. This is hardly what I’d expect from a ‘shoe-in’ type of candidate. His 91.6 fWAR is 29th all-time, immediately after Joe DiMaggio and tied with Albert Pujols. But he played 1,821 more games than Joltin’ Joe and 1,699 more games than Phat Albert.
I understand this to mean that, aside from the hits record, Pete Rose isn’t in the discussion about the ‘greatest player ever’ (Wagner, Ruth, Mays, Gehrig, Mantle, Williams, etc.).
He had a cool, memorable nickname (‘Charlie Hustle’) and, like all good nicknames, it said something meaningful about him. It said that he played the game like most people think it should be played: with abandon. Therefore, he was a fan favourite. He ran over a catcher in an all star game, virtually ending Ray Fosse’s career but, hey, who cares about Ray Fosse? Maybe Ray should ‘man up’: real baseball is played by football wannabes, regardless of whether the game is important or not.
He was a key part of back-to-back World Series champions that had a cool, memorable nickname of their own (‘the Big Red Machine’). He was also a key part of a World Series runner-up that had its own cool, memorable nickname with Philadelphia in ’83 (the ‘Wheeze Kids’). He played the game (semi-) effectively until he was 45 years old.
As you can see, when it comes to intangibles and anecdotal evidence, the man’s a freakin’ icon on a par with Babe Ruth.
Okay, he’s the all-time hits leader and, related to that, he is second all-time in doubles. He walked a lot (14th all-time) and, related to that, he was on base a lot (but he isn’t top 200 all-time) and had a high RE24. But he performed poorly on defense (except left field, where he put together three gold glove calibre seasons), and wasn’t much more than an average base runner. Perhaps we need to think about Pete Rose in a different way: maybe he’s the greatest utility player to ever play in MLB.
It’s a stretch to consider him a no-brainer for the Hall of Fame, though on the face of it his accomplishments and statistics speak clearly in his favour. That said I’m pretty sure Pete Rose’s career isn’t impressive enough to outweigh a lifetime ban for doing something that was outlawed by organized, professional baseball in 1875. And this doesn’t even take into account his lying, his books lobbying for his own inclusion, and his impact on A. Bartlett Giamatti.
I’m okay with Peter Edward Rose sweating it out while he waits for his sentence to be commuted. What seems to be lost in the kafuffle about him is that the ongoing debate about his lifetime ban is keeping his memory alive. We would have forgotten him long ago if he hadn’t been stupid enough to gamble on baseball.
Okay, there’s one position that was omitted from our all-time team: Designated Hitter. This is the part where the fans get to vote. Over the years, there have been some goodies. Some have already been mentioned—Dave Winfield and Paul Molitor—but there have been others. Edwin Encarnacion had a great season in 2012, primarily as a DH, and Joe Carter was productive in ’97. One of my personal favourites was Cliff Johnson.
Okay, this one’s up to you. Put on your Alex Anthopoulos hat and answer this question: ‘who’s the best DH in Toronto Blue Jays history?’ Keep in mind that you’ll need to drop one player from the 25 man roster to add your DH.
Well, here’s the second installment of our attempt to be confused for a real GM. In this piece we’ll focus on assembling the best pitching staff from Blue Jays history.
Roger Clemens (1997)
“Rocket” is one of the two greatest pitchers in Blue Jays history. Clemens’ 1997 and 1998 seasons were fantastic, but 1997 was in a class by itself. That year Clemens (11.1) was outstanding, putting to rest any fears that the Jays paid for a former great who was past his prime. It also infused the fanbase with hope. If only they could have surrounded him with a playoff-calibre team.
Roy Halladay (2003)
‘Doc’ is the other greatest pitcher in Blue Jays history. Whereas Clemens’ greatness was short-lived, Roy Halladay (8.0) was a product of Toronto’s farm who proved his greatness year after year. Doc’s first Cy Young campaign was a gem and earns him the honour as the #2 starter behind Roger Clemens.
David Wells (2000)
Wells is the reason that you give lefties chance after chance to reach their potential. A long-time Jay who moved around after the title years, Wells (6.8) came back to Toronto in the deal that sent Clemens to the Yankees. In his second stint with Toronto he was better than solid, paving the way to one of the worst trades in Jays’ history.
Pat Hentgen (1996)
It wasn’t his “stuff” that overpowered hitters, it was his tenacity. Pat Hentgen (6.4) pitched his way to the first Cy Young award in Jays’ history on the strength of decent stats (league-leading CG and SO), 265+ IP, and fairly weak competition. That’s not to say Hentgen was undeserving, or that his CYA is tarnished in any way. But he’s no higher than a fourth starter on this team, and a strong case could be made for him to be the #5 or #6, regardless of his hardware.
Jimmy Key (1987)
Rounding out the rotation is Toronto’s best homegrown lefty. His ’87 campaign was one of the first times that I believed the wrong player was chosen for an award. I was wrong, but it’s a testimony to how well Jimmy Key (6.1) pitched that year. The only reason Key didn’t win a Cy Young that year is that Roger Clemens was awesome.
Dave Stieb (1984)
Dave Stieb as the #6 guy? Sure. I chose Key for the #5 spot because he’s a lefty, but Stieb (6.1) was equally valuable as the Jays were poised to become a playoff team. He used his slider the way Mariano Rivera uses his cutter and was super competitive. But ’84 was the year of the Reliever, as Guillermo (Willie) Hernandez and Dan Quisenberry finished 1-2 in Cy Young voting. Interestingly, Stieb had the highest bWAR (aka rWAR) among pitchers receiving votes that year. So, how would you like to have the fiery Stieb for depth?
Tom Henke (1989)
There’s no question that’The Terminator’ is the greatest closer in Jays’ history. He was a very good strikeout pitcher with a good fastball and a close-up-the-shop-and-turn-off-the-lights forkball. He didn’t get beat by the walk or home run very often and, well, he was just pretty reliable. Just before the Jays began their four years of glory, Tom Henke (3.7) put together his best season as a Blue Jay, with excellent K/9 (11.7) and ERA (1.92) numbers.
Duane Ward (1991)
It’s virtually impossible for me to think of Henke without also thinking of Ward. Much to my surprise, Duane Ward (4.1) had the second best season by a reliever in Blue Jays’ history. Ward retains his position as Henke’s set-up man on the all-time team by virtue of his outstanding season in ’91 when he was—you guessed it—Henke’s set-up man. However, when Henke was injured that season, guess who stepped up and became a dominant closer. Hmm, two top-shelf closers. Tough problem to have.
Mark Eichhorn (1986)
I always equate the ’86 season with disappointment. I suppose it’s because the Jays took a step back from their success in 1985. However, a number of players enjoyed career years in ’86 and Mark Eichhorn (5.3) was one of them. Not only did the sidewinder have the best season of his career, but it remains the best season ever by a Blue Jays reliever. His funky delivery baffled opponents all season long, ensuring that the Blue Jays were competitive even though they didn’t win the division.
B.J. Ryan (2006)
He signed a big contract, so fans’ expectations were proportionately high. In his first season as a Blue Jay, B.J. Ryan (2.9) delivered. Career lows in H/9, BB/9, a career high in saves, and giving up a scant 11 ER all season set the bar pretty high. Unfortunately ’06 was Ryan’s high-water mark as a Jay, and that contract just kept haunting the Jays. For one season, though, B.J. Ryan was an overpowering lefty who finished games very effectively.
Pete Vuckovich (1977)
One year with the Jays and Vuke’s on the team. Vuckovich (2.9) pitched an astounding 148 innings in his lone season despite making only 8 starts. He struck out batters, didn’t hurt himself with walks, and didn’t give up many home runs. All in all, he had a pretty good season. Then, unfortunately, the Jays traded him to the Cards for Victor Cruz and Tom Underwood. Pete Vuckovich became a pretty good pitcher; Cruz and Underwood did not. You can’t win ’em all.
Dennis Lamp (1985)
Ah, the first playoff team in Jays’ history, 1985, and Dennis Lamp (2.3) was a significant part of it. The starters had high innings-counts, and the man that Bobby Cox turned to in the middle of the game was Dennis Lamp. A converted starter who was able to give the Jays 100+ IP out of the ‘pen, Lamp’s record in ’85 was 11-0.
Roy Lee Jackson (1982)
Jackson averaged 2 IP per appearance in 1982 and his H/9 were very, very good. Roy Lee (2.0) was just about everything that you’d want out of a reliever who was part of Bobby Cox’s closer by committee (with Dale Murray and Joey McLaughlin). Surprisingly, Roy Lee was second to Steve Senteney in K/BB in the Jays’ ‘pen that year.
Scott Downs (2010)
Every ‘pen needs a lefty specialist because a good LOOGY can neutralize a left-handed hitter when your team’s in a tight spot. Scott Downs (1.3) is that guy. Darren Oliver was excellent, and Garry LaVelle pitched well but they both enjoyed a broader role. Downs was about as good as it gets in ’10. I thought the Jays erred when they let him get away.
Because of Rule #4, B.J. Ryan would be on the DL. Dave Stieb would be a swingman, spot starting and pitching some long relief out of the ‘pen.
Dave Stieb as a spot starter and long reliever? Are you nuts? Maybe. Roy Lee Jackson isn’t a serious selection, is it? Well, yes and no. Most of the players in the early days were replacement level, but Roy Lee’s solid ’82 season (48 G, 97 IP) means he earned a spot as a long reliever. Long relievers aren’t real tough to find, but Roy Lee, Lamp, and Vuckovich would take care of the middle innings nicely
As you can see, this all-time team isn’t littered with sentimental selections from the World Series/playoff teams. Yes, by definition, those were some of the best players in Jays’ history but, no, the best seasons in Jays’ history didn’t necessarily coincide with postseason appearances or successes.
Will 2013 be an historic season for the Toronto Blue Jays? I don’t know, but one thing I can say definitively is that there’s more excitement now than there has been in a long, long time.
Is it Opening Day yet? The team that Alex Anthopoulos has assembled has me chompin’ at the bit for the season to get underway. In order to kill some time before they take the field, I thought I’d reflect on Blue Jay history a little. After 5,707 games, two titles, two pennants, and five playoff appearances, it’s high time.
The Jays don’t have the historical pedigree of most teams in MLB. There’s no Joe DiMaggio or Ted Williams in their hallowed past. There’s no Cy Young or Christy Mathewson. There are only a handful of individuals who have won major awards and there are but two World Series Championships in the 36 seasons since their inception. On the other hand, the Phillies didn’t win their first title until 1980, and they’d been around for more than a century. Still, I wondered, what would it look like if I put on my GM’s hat and assembled an all star team from Blue Jays history?
There’s been plenty of talent in Toronto: very few great players, but lots of very good ones. Sometimes, however, mediocre (or worse) players have great seasons. So, what parameters should we observe in assembling this team? Let’s set out some guidelines:
Keep it simple: fWAR, defense, and base running should do it;
No player makes the team twice, even if his two best seasons outstrip other players;
Assemble a 25 man roster.
Alright, as the old saying goes, ‘Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead!’
Catcher: Ernie Whitt (1983)
Names like Rick Cerone, Buck (or Sandy) Martinez, and Darrin Fletcher suggest that there aren’t many challengers for the best season by a catcher: it’s never been a position of particular strength for the Jays. Ernie Whitt (3.8) is one of only two catchers to put together a 3+ fWAR season, the other being Pat Borders (3.6). The thing is, Ernie did it six times.
First Base: John Olerud (1993)
This is one of the toughest calls of the bunch because Toronto’s had some damn fine first basemen through the years. John Olerud, Fred McGriff and Carlos Delgado head a list that also includes Willie Upshaw and bopper Cecil Fielder. While McGriff was a better fielder than Delgado, and Delgado had more power than any other Blue Jay in team history, there’s no doubt that John Olerud’s (8.4) ’93 season is head and shoulders above the rest.
Second Base: Roberto Alomar (1992)
The question wasn’t ‘which second baseman had the most productive season?’ Our apologies to Damaso Garcia, but the real question was ‘which Roberto Alomar season was the best?’ The answer to that question was that in 1992, Roberto Alomar (6.6) was just about as good and productive as anyone could expect from a middle infielder.
Third Base: Kelly Gruber (1988)
I bent rule #2 here: the platoon of Rance Mulliniks (3.7) and Garth Iorg (2.2) was better in ’85 than Gruber (5.8) was in ’88. They were also the hot corner tandem for Toronto’s first playoff team. That said, Gruber was a terrific defender with good power and speed. Mulliniks and Iorg both had experience playing other infield positions, making them valuable elsewhere.
Shortstop: Tony Fernandez (1987)
There really isn’t any serious competition for who was the best shortstop; as with Alomar at 2B, it was a matter of which Fernandez season was the best. Bill Madlock’s *cough* slide *cough* into second base will long be remembered by diehard Blue Jays’ fans. At the time, it ended Tony Fernandez’s best season and seriously jeopardized Toronto’s playoff hopes. The slick-fielding, good-hitting Fernandez (5.1) anchored the middle infield for a team that contended for the division until the final game of the season.
The Outfield: Lloyd Moseby (1984); Jose Bautista (2011); Jesse Barfield (1986)
Because there are three positions involved this is, at the same time, the toughest and easiest call to make. Center field, the most important of the three spots, is where the greatest questions arise. Blue Jays’ fans have enjoyed watching terrific center fielders. The best of these have been Lloyd Moseby, Devon White, and Vernon Wells. Defensively, Shaker and Devo were outstanding, and VDub was excellent offensively. All three possessed well-above-average speed but Shaker’s peak was unparalleled. Lloyd Moseby’s (7.5) 1984 season for the suddenly-relevant and surging Blue Jays is far-and-away the best season by a center fielder in Toronto Blue Jays history.
Jose Bautista (8.3) made the transition from utility bit-player to MVP contender in 2+ seasons. By the end of 2011, he was a part of the conversation about who was the best player in baseball. Offensively, he was a force (54 HR) and this made up for some shortcomings defensively and on the basepaths. His utility player experience and these (mild) shortcomings mean Bautista is the left fielder on the all-time Jays squad.
Jesse Barfield (7.9) is probably the best defensive outfielder in team history. So when his offense peaked in 1986, his value soared. He was a constant threat to throw out a base runner, had good range, and very good speed, making him an outstanding right fielder. Throw in a franchise-first 40 home runs, and Jesse became the best all-round player in the Blue Jays’ first decade.
Pat Borders (1990)
Pat Borders (3.6) peaked early as a player. It began in 1990 and lasted for three years, culminating with his being named World Series MVP in 1992. Borders was a solid catcher for a number of years with Toronto, then for several other teams over his long career. Coming off the bench would give the team considerable strength behind the plate.
Rance Mulliniks and Garth Iorg (1985)
As suggested above, this is a case of comparative advantage. Iorg and Mulliniks were both good defenders who made solid contributions offensively, peaking in ’85 as Bobby Cox’s platoon at third. They also had experience playing other positions in their careers. This combined with the platoon situation means they were ideally suited for a bench role.
George Bell (1987)
Who the heck thinks of the American League MVP as a fourth outfielder? Well, I do, for one. He was never a very good defensive outfielder and by this time, his base running had stagnated. The truth is that he wasn’t even a particularly good choice for MVP (see Trammell, Alan) but when Triple Crown stats ruled the day, George Bell had them. His 5.6 fWAR season in ’87 was a pretty low figure for an MVP, and doesn’t even make the top 10 seasons in Blue Jays history. But he sure makes a good, productive fourth outfielder.
What, no Joe Carter (5.1, ’91) or Shawn Green (6.0, ’99)? Carter’s a World Series hero, and he doesn’t even make the all-time team? Nope. I’ll take Jose Bautista over Joe Carter every time. Dave Winfield (4.3) and Paul Molitor (5.2, ’93) are remembered fondly because, like Carter, they’re connected directly to the Jays’ World Series glory. George Bell as a fourth outfielder? What gives? Well, these are the kinds of tough calls that every GM needs to make. Just wait ’til you get a load of the pitching staff…