My fellow Blue Jays fans.
I’m sure most of you, like me, have been disappointed with the way this season has played out.
In April there was so much optimism surrounding the Blue Jays. It was easy to imagine that this team would challenge for a spot in the post season come September and October. Then the injury bug hit and destroyed any hopes the Jays had of making a run at the playoffs.
When you consider that Brandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek, Drew Hutchison, Dustin McGowan, Sergio Santos, Jason Frasor, Luis Perez, Jose Bautista, Brett Lawrie, Adam Lind, and JP Arencibia have all seen significant time on the disabled list, it’s no wonder that the Jays find themselves below the .500 mark. All of these players were supposed to play significant roles for this team throughout the season. Their injuries have led to a number of young players being called up to the big club and bench players being asked to become starters and see significant time on the field.
All of this has made it very difficult for me to watch the Jays play on a regular basis. I am embarrassed to admit that I haven’t watched an entire Jays’ game over the past 2 weeks. I’d tune in to find them behind and change the channel… figuring that the game’s outcome had already been decided.
With some time on my hands this afternoon, I took a look over the highlights and box scores from the Jays games over the past few weeks and there were 5 things I saw that will have me tuning into Jays games on a more regular basis the rest of the way.
1. The Young Ones
Moises Sierra has put up outstanding numbers thus far (.333 in 42 at bats). Granted this is based on a small sample size, but he looks very comfortable at the plate. Could he be the solution to the “perceived” hole the Jays have in left field? Is he the reason both Snider and Thames were dealt at the deadline for relief help? Either way, he’ll be fun to watch while he’s a member of the big club.
Anthony Gose is flat out fast. 9 stolen bases in 23 games is ridiculous… especially when you consider that he is sporting a .273 on base percentage. There is no question that his bat still needs work, but when he gets on base, he’s a sure threat to run.
Adeiny Hechavarria is a kid we’ve been hearing about for a couple of years now… especially when it comes to his glove. He’s played third base extremely well in the absence of Lawrie and it isn’t even his natural position. While Adeiny’s bat is also in need of some work (only 5 of 26 in 10 games), he’s made some outstanding plays in the field.
Aaron Loup has been a pleasant surprise coming out of the bullpen. He’s sporting a 2.50 ERA and 0.59 WHIP over 18 innings. He’s struck out 12 batters while only walking 1 and is holding opposing hitters to a .150 batting average. He is certainly giving John Farrell another consistent lefty to help
Darren Oliver get the tough lefties out late in games and his cross fire delivery makes it very difficult for lefties to pick up the baseball.
Given that the average age of these four players is 23, they represent the future and I certainly am curious to see what the future holds.
2. Power Surge
What an outstanding year being put together by a player I would have been happy to see traded for a ham sandwich only 16 months ago. Now, Edwin Encarnacion’s chasing Adam Dunn and Josh Hamilton for the AL (and MLB) lead in homeruns. (34 to 31)
This has been a career year for Edwin who has already reached career highs in HRs (31), RBIs (82), and total bases (238) and is only 1 walk and 9 runs scored from setting career highs in those categories as well. He is the runaway favourite for team MVP in my opinion. He has been a solid hitter for the entire year and has proven to be a threat to go deep in every at bat. I think it would be great to see a Blue Jay lead the league in home runs for a third year in a row… and I plan on cheering him on the rest of the way.
3. League’s Top Thief
Two years ago, I was very energized to hear that Alex Anthopoulos had signed Rajai Davis. I thought we had finally found a leadoff hitter and consistent stolen base threat. My vision of that signing finally seems to be coming to fruition. With 38 stolen bases to this point in the season, Rajai is tied with rookie sensation Mike Trout. No Blue Jay has ever led the league in stolen bases and Rajai will certainly have a shot if he continues to get regular playing time between now and the end of the season.
4. The Return of Brandon Morrow
Brandon’s coming out party this year was a lot of fun to watch. After 13 starts, he was sporting an ERA of 3.01, a WHIP of 1.00, 67Ks in 77+ innings while issuing only 24 walks and seemed to be on the cusp of becoming a legitimate ace. Then, an oblique injury forced him to the disabled list on June 11th and we were left to consider what could have been.
He is close to returning to the Jays rotation and I am very excited to see him pick up where he has left off. His rehab starts have gone very well (4 starts, 1.72 ERA in 15+ innings and 14Ks) and he will receive a warm welcome back to the starting rotation. I’m sure his first start will come with a pitch count, but it will still be great to see him back with the big club.
5. The Future of our Current Rotation
Even with the struggles of both Ricky Romero and Henderson Alvarez, you would have to think that both of those guys will be in the starting rotation along with Brandon Morrow in 2013. But that cannot be said for the other three pitchers in the current starting rotation. Carlos Villanueva, Aaron Laffey and J.A. Happ have all displayed an ability to be a starting pitcher on a major league roster. However, Alex Anthopoulos has stated that he’s looking to upgrade the starting rotation this off season, meaning that each of these guys could be auditioning for a starting spot in 2013… it just may not be a spot in the Blue Jays rotation.
Since joining the rotation, Carlos has only given up 18 earned runs in 9 starts while striking out 54 and walking just 15. He’s stated that he wants to return to Toronto, but would prefer to be a starter rather
than a long reliever. If he continues pitching like this, I can’t see how Anthopoulos doesn’t give this guy a contract and an opportunity to be a starter in 2013 with Drabek and Hutchison both on the shelf. Does Villanueva continue to pitch well and give the GM something to think about?
When I first heard that Aaron Laffey was a Blue Jay, my first thought was, “Why? He’s no good!” And granted, he is not the best pitcher in the league, but he has been a serviceable starter. In his 10 starts, he’s pitched 58 innings with a record of 3-4 and an ERA of 4.97. He is arbitration eligible but I would think he is a long shot to return to the Blue Jays rotation. Does he present enough value that another team might become interested in his services?
J.A. Happ has been a pitcher I have rooted for since his great 2009 season in Philadelphia when he went 12-4 with a 2.93ERA. He has had three starts with Toronto since his trade from Houston and has gotten better with each start. His last start against Texas saw him pitch 6 innings, giving up only 1 run on 2 hits with 8 strikeouts. Happ is also arbitration eligible this off season and has stated his desire to be a starter. Do the Jays use him as a fifth starter? Does he become the long man in the bullpen?
There is no question that the Blue Jays will not be post season bound this year, but I’ve discovered there certainly are enough story lines to keep this Blue Jays fan interested until September? How about you?