Posted by: Peter Houston | April 4, 2010

Balknostications

PH: Inspired by one of our fine readers in the comments section, this post will make predictions on some interesting questions facing the Jays this year. I guess you could call it our very first ‘Jays Balk Mailbag’. But instead of making boring predictions about where the Jays will finish or what type of numbers they’ll put up, we will delve into some more stimulating questions. I’ve had a few too many brews, so my predictions – besides being completely accurate – will hopefully provide some entertainment or at least spur some discussion. Here goes nothing:

How’s the rotation going to change between now and the All-Star break? What about the end of the season?

PH: Hopefully a lot. By AT LEAST the All-Star break, Brian Tallet should be removed from the starting rotation. Depending on how quickly Marc Rzepczynski recovers from his injury, he’s first in line for the call up. But with the way Brett Cecil preformed in Grapefruit League, a solid performance in AAA to start the year could go a long way to solidifying himself as the go to guy.

As for the end of the year, it’s highly likely there will be major changes. Someone’s going to get injured, someone’s going to suck, and someone’s (hopefully) going to be pushing their way on to the team by lighting up AAA. So let’s go with: Morrow gets hurt, Eveland gets lit up and Kyle Drabek lights up AA, and then AAA. The rotation to end the year will be Marcum, Romero, Rzepczynski, Cecil, Drabek.

AMGR: A lot of people seem to be pushing for Drabek to light it up in the minors and make the rotation by the end of the year. To me, this is a pipe dream. The guy is 22 years old. What is the rush? To solidly prove that the trade worked out in AA’s favour as soon as possible? No. To gain some perspective here, look at a guy like Felix Hernandez on the M’s. He was rushed up to the majors at 19, and while everyone knew he was going to be awesome from the get-go, and while he showed flashes of brilliance, he just wasn’t totally ready. Last season was his true breakout, and he was 23. If they rush Drabek to the majors, especially on a team that is going to be as bad as it is, they don’t need to break the kid’s spirit already. Let him dominate the minors, and bring him up next year. It’s not like they don’t have enough additional names to throw in.

Speaking of those names, let’s discuss this rationally. As the current rotation stands, we know that at least one of these guys is a plug, since Rzepczynski was all but a shoe-in before his injury. Judging by his spot in the rotation, one would have to figure this would be Dana Eveland. His fantastic spring, along with injuries to a couple kids, earned him the spot. Now, let’s not forget that having great spring does not, by any means, guarantee success (Gabe Gross anyone?). Eveland had a terrible 2009, and so he’s going to have to put up numbers somewhat close to his ’08 success (4.34 ERA in 29 starts) if he’s going to keep his spot. Personally, I don’t think he will.

However, I would still take him over Brian Tallet. Now, I know this site does not give BT much love (unless you mean Breakfast Television), but I feel this is justified. Tallet has proven that he is a more-than-capable long relief man, not a starter. From watching him last year, he simply does not have the endurance to throw six or seven quality innings. So why Cito feels that he deserves the 2 spot over Ricky Romero, I will never understand. Unless, as Pete and I discussed, perhaps he’s in the 2 spot so that he gets skipped in the first run of the rotation (Jays have a day off on Tuesday, after all).

I want to be optimistic about Shaun Marcum, but let’s look at the history of Jays pitchers who have returned from serious injury in the last few years – if you can find them. Dustin McGowan is still a huge question mark, BJ Ryan’s experiment apparently did not work, Casey Janssen has still yet to prove he’s got the stuff he had back in ’07… look, don’t get me wrong. If experience is the main determinant here, and based on how he performed when he was healthy, Shaun Marcum is the guy who deserves the opening day start. But will he have the same stuff as before, mainly the accuracy, and how many innings can they possibly expect out of him?

Basically, Rzepczynski and Cecil will be the first guys up to replace Eveland and Tallet. I’m hoping Morrow works out, but he could easily end up in the bullpen when Jesse Litsch is healthy. Another name I’ve thrown around that everyone seems to forget is Robert Ray. If he continues to pitch steadily, don’t be surprised if he’s the third new starter we see.

End of season predictions are not easy, but I’m gonna go with Romero, Ray, Cecil, Rzepczynski, Mills.

Why? Cuz I’ll be wrong anyway…

Who will finish the season with the most wins on the pitching staff?

PH: I really hate wins as a pitching stat. It is the worst indicator of how good a pitcher is. So what I want to do is predict someone terrible – like Brian Tallet – will lead the team in wins. But unfortunately, based on my predictions above, the the logical answer would have to be either Marcum or Romero, seeing as they’re the only pitchers that will last the entire year. Marcum seemed to have some trouble going deep into ballgames in 2008 so I’m gonna go with Romero.

AMGR: This is a no-brainer: Ricky Romero. The kid has improved even over last season, he’s a work-horse, and he’s gonna get the most innings. Expect a 13-win season out of him. Marcum may end up with the best numbers, but they will shut him down at some point in September so that he does not fall victim to the Verducci effect.

Who makes the All-Star game as Toronto’s representative(s)?

PH: Good question. Aaron Hill and Adam Lind seem to be ridiculously under appreciated/underrated so let’s go with a Jay that’s due for a bounce back season and is shamelessly overrated….well…um…. Vernon Wells. Yup, you heard it here first.

AMGR: Again with the V-Dubs, eh Pete? No, he is no all-star.  Aaron Hill is the man. Adam Lind would make it, except nobody around the league knows who he is. Maybe both of them could make it, but it will take a Bosh-like campaign to get Lind there.

It could also be a reliever though. Maybe this is Frasor’s year, but I really don’t think so. I’m gonna go with Hill. Who’s a better second baseman right now? Pedroia and Cano perhaps, but those teams will have enough representatives…

Which rookie will make the most impact?

PH: Just because he’s due, and just because I love him, Travis Snider. Honestly, who else are you going to pick?

AMGR: Who else? I’ll tell you who else. Brian Dopirak, that’s who. Pretty sure Snider is not a rookie anymore.

What are you looking to get in return from Lyle Overbay? Will Frasor get traded and for what?

PH: Tough question. Obviously young player(s), but definitely not a first baseman. Randy Ruiz, Brian Dopirak and Brett Wallace should be able to hold down the fort at first for a while. The Jays will try to deal Overbay at the deadline, at which point he’ll have half a year left on his contract. He’s also a 33-year-old first baseman with diminishing skills. The Jays will be lucky to get a B+ prospect for him. But come to think of it, didn’t the Red Sox add a very similar player to Overbay when they got Doug Mientkiewicz and proceeded to win the World Series?

I have the feeling the Jays like Frasor and won’t deal him. Hopefully Kevin Gregg can put up some decent numbers and be used as trade bait. It’s arguable over who would get more, a solid reliever or Overbay. Either way, we need some young studs.

AMGR: The answer to your last question is a no-brainer for me. A solid reliever, and for that matter, a lawn mower, would get more in return than Lyle Overbay. I would love for Lyle to prove me wrong, but he’s going to have to put up similar numbers to his ’06 season (and what is the likelihood of that?). For Overbay, they’ll be lucky to get a not-so-great outfielding prospect and maybe cash.

If Frasor performs well as closer, expect them to get a couple prospects back. If he remains the closer, and does well, there is no way they’re trading Kevin Gregg. What’s going to happen is Frasor will do well as closer, he’ll be dealt at the deadline, and Gregg will be made closer.

Now for those of you thinking, why would a reliever earn more than a first baseman? Well, first off, Overbay, as Pete said, is diminishing in skill. His defensive skills could earn him a spot on a playoff team, ala Mientkiewicz, but he could easily be snagged for a player to be named later. On the other hand, let me remind you all of a trade the Jays somehow pulled off back in ’97: Paul Spoljaric and Mike Timlin (two relievers) to the Mariners for Jose Cruz Jr (HUGE outfield prospect…at the time). Regardless of how Cruz panned out, that trade was huge. And, that’s not to mention, Timlin was not at his best at this time, and Spoljaric soon found himself pitching for the Toronto Maple Leafs of the Inter-County League.

If they could get Cruz for those guys, imagine what they could get if they packaged Frasor and Downs together…

-Who will finish the year batting cleanup? (the answer is Ruiz)

PH: Thanks for answering this one for me. But with all due respect to Ruiz, I don’t think so. This is what the lineup will look like at the end of the year. 1. Hechevarria – SS 2. Hill – 2B  3. Lind – DH 4. Wells – CF 5. Ruiz – 1B 6. Snider – LF 7. Bautista – RF 8. Emaus – 3B  9. Buck – C

AMGR: Wrong. Ruiz will bat clean up sooner than you think. When Cito realizes Overbay is over-played (and can’t hit lefties), and that Wells crumbles in the clean-up spot, the lineup will feature Wells hitting 6th and Ruiz in the 4 spot. Here’s how the lineup will look by the end of May:

1. Bautista – 3B, 2. Hill – 2B. 3. Lind – LF, 4. Ruiz – DH, 5. Snider – RF, 6. Wells – CF, 7. Overbay – 1B, 8. Buck – C, 9, McDonald – SS.

Why? Because Encanacion and Gonzalez will already be on the DL, by this point, assuming EE is not outright released.

By the end of the year, call me crazy, but if the clean-up spot is not filled by Snider, it will belong to Brett Wallace.

-Will Buck Martinez be awesome or just excellent?

PH: Readers of this blog may know my feelings towards Buck already (check the new Buck video I added on the right hand side of the site). It doesn’t have much to do with his broadcasting skills, but I’ll be the first to admit I’m going into this season with a strong anti-Buck bias. I tuned in to the first couple innings of the Jays-Astros game Friday night, and he didn’t impress me. He wasn’t awful, and I’m sure he’s still getting a feel for play-by-play, but he’s got a lot to prove in my mind. End of season prediction: decent.

AMGR: I stand by what I said before. He’s new at it, there will be nerves, but he will flourish eventually. The guy has been broadcasting since before I was born, he’s been in video games, and like I said before, he has spent years sitting beside Dan Shulman and Jim Hughson. This guy is no reporter following up his lifelong dream (Jamie Campbell) or a figure skating commentator that had nothing to do in the summer (Rod Black), this guy has lived and breathed baseball for years. At the very least, by next season, he will be dope.

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Responses

  1. Ease my troubled mind and tell me that everything will be OK for Marco Scutaro with Boston?

    • You’re dreaming. He defines one year wonder.

    • I’m gonna steal Andrew’s role of Devil’s Advocate. As much as I do think Scutaro is a flash in the pan, we must consider:
      a) he changed his batting stance big time before last season, which seemed to seriously change his game. Coincidence?
      b) even if he is mediocre or slightly above, it’s not like the Sox paid THAT MUCH for him… I think they paid him what he deserves, despite the fact I anticipated he’d get overpaid.

  2. […] Not many people saw this one coming. It’s hard to say which one of his stats is the most impressive: his 7 home runs, his 10 doubles or his whopping .716 SLG %. Either way, Jays fans are starting to believe his down seasons were actually a result of injuries and he’s still got most of that talent we paid him $126 million for. Oh ya, one other thing. Come mid-July, I will be the one laughing after my bold pre-season All-Star prediction. […]


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