Jays in 30: Bautista, Cecil, Sanchez, Saunders, Stroman

Jays in 30 Thoughts: April 9 Edition
By Jory
Blue Jays from Away

30 thoughts from the week that was for the Toronto Blue Jays ... 4/2/2016 – 4/8/2016

1) Opening Day. The Blue Jays couldn’t have started the season off better. Marcus Stroman pitched 8+ strong innings. The top of the order produced and Roberto Osuna got the save, the script couldn’t have been written better.

2) Who Needs Spring Training. After having no spring training at bats with the big league team, Edwin Encarnacion has started the season hitting over .300 after his first 6 games. Who needs to warm up for the season?  Certainly not Edwin.

3) A New Lefty in Town Franklin Morales, a left handed reliever, signed on with Toronto just before the start of the season to give the club a 2nd option, behind Brett Cecil, out of the bullpen. Another lefty out of the bullpen, never hurts!

4) Super Agent Dealings. Morales is the first Scott Boras client the Blue Jays have employed since  Brad Wilkerson. Boras, who manages over $2 billion in contracts, notoriously gets the most for his clients and once ripped the Jays for their “5 year” max contract policy. Alex Anthopoulos shied away from deals with clients who Boras represented but that has now come to an end. It is great the Jays aren’t restricting their signings because of their representation.

5) Concern For The Bullpen? The bullpen has had a rough start to the season. Aside from Roberto Osuna, Franklin Morales and Joe Biagini, there hasn’t been much success down there. It is a small sample size but it’s still a worry. There may be some interchangeable parts with Ryan Tepera, Bo Schultz and, once healthy, Aaron Loup waiting in the wings to help find the right mix.

6) Another Canadian Added. Chris Leroux, born in Montreal Quebec, was added from Philadelphia in exchange for cash considerations. Don’t expect to see Leroux, who does have MLB experience, to pitch with the Blue Jays but instead add some depth in the Buffalo rotation.

7) Oh Canada! 6 Canadians were on opening day rosters around the league. Russel Martin and Michael Saunders (Jays); Joey Votto (Reds); Brett Lawrie (White Sox); John Axford (A’s); Jim Henderson (Mets). It is fun to follow – the Canucks are coming!

8) David Who? Marcus Stroman pitched like an Ace in the season opening game helping the team and the fan base forget about David Price. Things didn’t go as great in the home opener but we will get to that later. Price did go on the record, with Hazel Mae, saying that he understood why he wasn’t offered a deal by the Jays and that it was a business.  I still miss him, but not at the money he got.

9) First Home Run Since 2013! Josh Thole worked on the power in his swing this offseason and, wow, it showed on his first at bat where Thole hit his first MLB home run since 2013. To make this an even better story his father was in the stands to witness the feat.  Way to go Josh!

10) Top Prospects In Dunedin Anthony Alford, Connor Greene, and Richard Urena were all assigned to Class-A Dunedin. These guys are truly the future and it will be interesting to watch how they perform in Dunedin.

11) Another Opening Day Start Drew Hutchison got the opening day start once again but this time it was in Buffalo. Hutchison pitched well over 5 innings allowing only 1 earned run and striking out 9. I am truly glad the Jays decided to hold onto him – he is young and still can be a productive starter for years to come.

12) The New Rule After opening the season with 2 wins the Jays lost their first game when Jose Bautista disrupted the throw of Rays 2nd baseman Logan Forsythe by swiping at his ankle. Yes, by the rules, it was the right call but holy does it feel so very wrong.

13) Record Tying Streak Ends Brett Cecil had 38 consecutive appearances without allowing an earned run, which tied him with Craig Kimbrel for the all-time record, that was broke on Tuesday by a Logan Forsythe homerun. It was an impressive streak for the former 15 game winner. Now it is time to end a new streak he has started…2 straight appearances giving up runs!

14) Looking Like a Starter. Aaron Sanchez, arguably, had the best start in the first series of the year. After battling it out in spring training for the right to start, Sanchez spun 7 innings of 1 run ball. He looked great and I would bet on him being the 2nd best starter the Jays employ this season!

15) Striking Out. The Blue Jays are striking out at an alarming rate this season. In the Tampa series they were working the count and getting pitch counts up but still were susceptible to the “K”.  This has continued into the Boston series.  I don’t believe this will be something to worry about in the long term but it really is a head scratcher.

16) Should Have Been a Sweep. The opening series had some drama including the Bautista slide and a blown lead. Usually getting a split at Tropicana Field, where the Jays historically have trouble, would be OK but when a sweep was a realistic outcome it just didn’t feel good.

17) Keeping Calm. Yes the season has not started out as people, including myself, envisioned. The team, management, and fans all need to keep calm. This is a far too talented team to worry about 6 games into the season.

18) The Injury Saga. Michael Saunders, although looking great in the first series of the year, has already been slowed up by a hamstring injury. The injury bug has always been an issue for Saunders and I could see Darrel Ceciliani benefiting from this fact, by getting called up, to get some time with the big club this year.

19) The Trouble In Right Field. Jose Bautista showed off his power on Saturday with 2 home runs off of Rick Porcello but he has played some poor defense in right so far this season. It seems he rarely goes all out to hunt down a ball anymore and had a costly misread when a ball bounced over his head allowing a triple.  I have said it before and I will say it again – he should be a DH going forward.

20) Was it an Outlier? Chris Colabello, who is one of my favourites, had a career year last season for the Blue Jays and the fear is now that he can’t keep that pace up. Only 4 players were equal too, or better, at the end of the 2015 season in terms of batting average. Now teams have seen Colabello and I fear the “book” may be out on him.  I hope he proves me wrong.

21) Players Tribune Article. Marcus Stroman showed his love for Toronto. After his initial disappointment of being drafted by Canada’s only team, he has fallen in love with the city and the city has fallen in love with him. I highly recommend checking it out.

22) The Lefty Looked Alright. I argued, in an earlier set of thoughts, that J.A. Happ was the real #5 in the rotation (in terms of ability). Happ didn’t look bad in his debut.  I’m not stepping away from my opinion that he is our #5 but I would take that performance from the back end of the rotation any day.

23) You Only Get One First Impression. Poor Arnold Leon. His first chance as a Blue Jay and he gives up a 3 run home run trying to hold onto a one run lead.  One can’t help but think he may be the odd man out when Marco Estrada comes back from injury this weekend.

24) Home Field Advantage. I worry that the Blue Jays will lose their home “turf” advantage with the new, esthetically pleasing, dirt infield. They were the only team having cutouts at the bases and, thus, had a lot more playing time on it. Only time will tell on this one.

25) Payroll. The Toronto Blue Jays opened the season with the 14th highest payroll in baseball, at roughly $138 million, while only being 4th highest in the AL East.  Now he question is – will there be money to add pieces to the team before the deadline?  If the team does well and the fans support them I really can’t see why not?  Rogers has deep pockets … very deep.

26) Home Opener Nearly Perfect. What a great night. Emotional opening ceremony, Josh Donaldson hits grand slam and with a 7-2 lead things looked to be in cruise control…until the 6th where the wheels fell off when Brock Holt hit a grand slam of his own. Can’t win ‘em all but that one was tough to watch.

27) The Ball Was Dancin’. R.A. Dickey had the knuckler moving on Saturday afternoon – it was dancing so much that Josh Thole couldn’t catch the darn thing. With 2 official pass balls, and a couple 3rd strike mishaps that had to be thrown to first, it was an interesting day behind the plate for Thole.

28) Manager Had a Tough Week. I am a big fan and supporter of John Gibbons but, boy, he had a tough week in my eyes. Bullpen usage/management and not pinch hitting for Thole in the 6th on Saturday when the team is down and has runners on the corners really stick out in my mind as critical errors.

29) Trouble At The Top? Kevin Pillar has started the season hitting .200 with one, terrifying, hit by pitch off the brim of his helmet. There aren’t really any other options for the leadoff position on the roster but should this be a worry?  I am going on record to say yes.  With three guys that realistically could hit 40 home runs each immediately following the leadoff hitter we need someone to be on base in any way possible.  It is a small sample size but Pillar doesn’t seem to be that guy.

30) Losing Streak. After winning the first two games of the season the Jays have dropped four straight. Time to right the ship and it all starts with Marco Estrada on the hill Sunday for his first start of the season and to avoid the sweep!

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