Posts Tagged ‘Blue Jays Jose Bautista 2010’

I just finished reading a piece by a Toronto sports writer basically inferring Toronto Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos would ‘make a better accountant than GM’ because he is too focused on ‘next season’.  The writer wasn’t convinced about the short term direction of the franchise as he feels the business of sport is about winning games and selling tickets.

He even felt Vernon Wells was an all-star because he hit well in his games at the Rogers Centre – yeah, it clearly helped in the attendance figures last year.  He also felt the team has been playing the next-year game for far too many years and while I can’t argue that just who were the Blue Jays going to acquire in the past offseason that would’ve guaranteed success?

Shaun Marcum was traded for Brett Lawrie who is the best player traded in the offseason for any pitcher, including Zack Greinke and Matt Garza.  Shaun Marcum on a pure talent level going forward is the Jays fourth best pitcher behind Brandon Morrow, Brett Cecil, Ricky Romero and some might even say behind prized rookie Kyle Drabek.

The Jays are becoming one of the best run organizations in baseball with an improving minor league system, about 8 picks in the first three rounds of the next MLB draft (called one of the best in recent years) and an ownership group stating when the time is right, the money will be there

Trading the most overpaid player in baseball doesn’t make them worse now or in the future, but that is another story and I think the Jays pitching will still be top-tier assuming good health but I wanted to do a little digging and ask the question, are the Jays actually better without Vernon Wells, immediately? 

The Toronto writer seemed to think it was only about money and on the surface I agree but I don’t feel we received two bad contracts for one as Juan Rivera is a free agent after this coming season and if the Jays don’t want to pay Mike Napoli, they can simply walk away from his arbitration ruling.  However I don’t think the writer follows baseball too closely to so quickly write off the value of the players they received.

Could the Jays actually be better on the field, immediately next season?  Let’s take a closer look.

Vernon Wells had a solid bounce back campaign last season for the Jays as in 157 games he slashed 273/331/515 good for a .362 wOBA and .242 ISO.  He cranked 31 HRs and drove in 88 runs and it’s hard to complain about that production however Wells also gave back quite a few runs with his declining defense (-6.4 UZR which would’ve been worse if not for his stellar error rate, his range factor was abysmal).  Still, a 4.0 WAR is hard to argue against.

A quick correction to the writer who claimed Torii Hunter will be the CF for the Angels in ’11 and is a great defensive player.  Hunter is showing signs of aging and is no longer considered elite in CF, not even close, and Peter Bourjos will likely be the everyday CF and this kid can shag flies with the best of them.  Even Bourjos is just a placeholder in CF until super prospect Mike Trout is deemed ready.

Taking over for the Jays in CF will be the speedy Rajai Davis who in 143 games slashed 284/320/377.  Davis is not known for his power but will supply a good deal of speed (50 SBs) and should play slightly better defense.  UZR wasn’t kind to Davis last season (-7.9) but the year previous in 113 games showed very solid range and a 12.1 UZR/150 rating in CF. 

Mike Napoli will provide a punishing (though one-dimensional) bat at C/DH and since 2008 has accumulated 8.2 WAR compared to Vernon Wells (5.5).  The Jays 1B/DH situation last season was pretty anaemic with Adam Lind seeing the most time there (237/287/425) so Napoli should improve on those numbers with Lind moving to first.  Napoli is also a lefty masher, an area the Jays struggled with last season.

The Jays will very likely get better production from the C/DH spot with Napoli, Encarnacion (and others).  Depending on how Arencibia handles a bigger load and whether Napoli plays catcher versus lefties there will likely only be a small drop off (if any) as while Buck hit HRs (20) he also had a lousy OBP (314), BB rate (3.7%) and was lucky (.335 BABIP).

Adam Lind was one of the best hitters in baseball in 2009 and Bill James projects a big bounce back in 2011 with a 281/338/497 slash line with a .362 wOBA.  Consider the production Lyle Overbay gave us last season (243/329/433) the Blue Jays will be hard pressed not to show improvement at 1B also.

Second baseman Aaron Hill should bounce back, shortstop Yunel Escobar is another bounce back candidate to hit for good OBP and a wildcard power source – he isn’t a step down from Alex Gonzalez.  Third base is slated to be Jose Bautista currently and he will be a step up over Edwin Encarnacion. 

The outfield might see some regression with the loss of Vernon Wells to LA and Jose Bautista to 3B but this should also be the season that highly touted rookie hitter Travis Snider starts to really show why the league was so high on Snider.  Rajai Davis will provide similar OBP and more speed than Wells (though less power) and Juan Rivera in 2009 produced basically the exact same season Vernon Wells did in 2010 (287/332/478 – 25 HRs).

All in all I just don’t see the Jays offense as any worse off and with a break or two and some bounce back seasons from Aaron Hill and Adam Lind (key 2009 contributors) it could actually even be better.

Food for thought? Will the Jays kick tires on acquiring Prince Fielder?

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I was reading a piece at Fangraphs regarding Prince Fielder and his imminent departure from the Milwaukee Brewers in the offseason given the impasse between management and Fielder’s agent, the vaunted Scott Boras.  Rumours peg the asking price for Fielder’s next contract between 120-150 million over 6-8 years and I am not going to argue that a defensively challenged overweight first basemen is worth that type of long term investment because very clearly he is not and even more clear is the Jays would never be able to sign a player to that type of contract.

My argument today is that Alex Anthopoulos and the Toronto Blue Jays should at the very least inquire into the asking price (from the Brewers) to bring in the powerful left handed hitting home run machine for the 2011 season.  I am not sure what the cost would be but one would have to assume it would likely be fairly high and it could ultimately cost the team their top pitching prospect Kyle Drabek.  Although everybody is extremely high on this kid I think this could be a move worth considering.

Consider me a contrarian in the valuation of Drabek but I am not a huge buyer of his stock and I think his value will never be higher coming off a successful (at first glance) minor league season.  The 23 year old posted a 2.94 ERA in 162 ‘AA’ innings in 2010 allowing 126 hits, walking 68 and striking out 132 while improving his ground ball tendencies slightly.  Like I said, at first glance it appears to be one heck of a season for a kid his age.

But glancing beyond the shiny ERA there are some red flags underneath the surface in terms of future success, at least for me.  Drabek posted a pedestrian 7.3 K/9 (for a top rated pitching prospect) while his BB/9 rose to nearly 4 walks per nine (3.78 BB/9) giving him a mediocre 1.9 K/BB.  Drabek was slightly aided by a low BABIP (.260) and his FIP was a more telling number of his actual season, coming in at a respectable but not spectacular 3.87. 

Now you would have to be a fool to think he is even close to a finished product and chances are he will improve, and could possibly improve a lot but at this point I don’t feel the peripherals match the expectations or scream ‘future star’.  Not that every pitcher requires a strikeout an inning to be successful (think Halladay, Roy) but the minor league strikeout numbers for a young pitcher are normally one of the indicators of future success in the big leagues and I think the jury is out on Drabek developing into a true number one or two starter.

Another reason I wouldn’t be too hesitant if Milwaukee were warm to this type of deal is the Jays would be dealing 100% from a point of strength as they are currently fairly loaded with a plethora of major league ready arms under the age of 28.  Their current rotation is among the best in the game with Shaun Marcum, Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Brett Cecil and whoever they decide to slot in at the number five spot.  There is a chance Drabek never develops into the type of big league starter who is capable of usurping one of the top 4-5 starters the Jays currently possess and the more he is exposed at the big league level without a lot of success the more his overall value takes a dive.

Another motivation for a move like this is Prince Fielder would instantly give the Jays there first legit power threat at 1B since Carlos Delgado left town, no offense to Lyle Overbay but he is barely a league average bat at this point in his career.  Fielder will be entering his 27 year old season (historically one of a hitter’s best overall years career wise) and even with a slightly off year (for his standards) Prince has still been a beast in 2010.  Currently slashing 267/403/486 with 32 HRs, 80 RBI and a cool 106 BBs, Fielder has still managed a .388 wOBA and .218 ISO.  For those curious Lyle Overbay in 2010 currently has a .335 wOBA.

Fielder’s career slash line is impressive to say the least at 281/385/538, to go with a career .258 ISO and .389 wOBA.  Fielder has patience (career 12.9 BB %), power and could help energize a city that is slowly starting to come around on the young and promising Blue Jays.  I liken this situation to what Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s did when they traded for outfielder Matt Holliday at the beginning of 2009. 

The A’s hoped Holliday would be the answer for a moribund offense and place them squarely in contention in the AL West, however when it didn’t quite work that way, they flipped him again to St. Louis to recoup some of their losses in prospects (unfortunately they dealt Carlos Gonzalez to acquire him) though they could have just let Holliday (like the Jays could with Fielder) play out the season and leave in the winter and receive two highly valuable compensation draft picks for the next Amateur draft.

The A’s got unlucky that they dealt a big package of Carlos Gonzalez, Huston Street and Greg Smith and Holliday’s value took a hit (only due to playing in one of the worse offensive environment’s in baseball) but I have no doubt that Fielder would flourish at the Roger’s Centre in an improving and powerful Jays line-up.   I am not sure what the price would be but if it is only the cost of a player who is not a guarantee (say a Kyle Drabek) and a couple additional fringe prospects I might be intrigued.

Worst case scenario Fielder doesn’t put the Jays over the top in the AL East in 2011 and Kyle Drabek develops into an ace starter, seems unlikely but nothing in baseball is guaranteed.  However, the Jays would at least be able to start over with the two strong draft picks or attempt to flip Fielder to a contending team looking for a 2 month rental and regaining some of the lost youth and prospects it took to acquire the Prince.

On the flip side the potential upside to having one of the top young 1B/DH in your line-up for 162 games and rolling into Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park with another powerful left handed slugger is truly appealing.  Renting Prince Fielder for 2011 could be a win-win for the Toronto Blue Jays and I wonder if it has sparked any curiosity or interest within the Blue Jays brain trust and the wonder kid Alex Anthopoulos?

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The Jays would still need to address a longer term solution at third base (preferably not E5) although it doesn’t appear they have any real in-house candidates (Jose Bautista should remain in the outfield) and as much as I would love to see Adrian Beltre bring his magic glove and trusty bat (and strange quirk of killing any man who dares touch the top of his head!) the competition for his services will likely be fierce and I see the Boston Red Sox doing everything in their power to retain him.

Jose Bautista has easily been baseball’s biggest surprise in 2010, going from a relatively useful yet unknown commodity to the game’s premier homerun hitter in the span of one season.  In 2009 the 30 year old veteran Bautista was a 1.9 win player (1.9 WAR) and slashed a rather pedestrian 235/349/408 and in 404 PAs he belted 13 HRs while posting a .173 ISO and .339 wOBA.  He provided value with his versatility (able to play multiple positions) and league average defense but all in all was likely considered expendable by Toronto Blue Jays brass heading into the season if his numbers didn’t improve.

Bautista’s unprecedented 2010 season has been well documented by a lot of great sources on the net but to quickly recap Bautista has been a revelation with the bat and is already a near 7 win player (6.9 WAR) and has slashed 260/378/617 with 35 2Bs, 54 HRs, 124 RBIs, 100 BBs and has even chipped in 9 SBs.  He has a ridiculous .357 ISO (career .207) and a .422 wOBA (career .346), he has been aided by an inflated 21.7% HR/FB (career 13.8%) but not a ridiculous rate and he has even been hindered by a low .233 BABIP.  Any way you slice it and whatever your preferred method of stat-ology might be it has been a huge year for Jose Bautista.

This piece is to do a little comparative action to compare Bautista’s giant 2010 and any past big time Jays seasons to see exactly where this season fits in terms of greatest seasons (offensively) for a Blue Jay.  As I scoured the books to see who I would compare his season to I stopped no further than a man who ranks as the greatest Blue Jays hitter of all time, our old friend Carlos Delgado.  Oh there were some nice years from a few other sources, the usual suspects of John Olerud, Roberto Alomar, George Bell, Joe Carter, Jose Canseco’s juice filled comeback season and the like but I figured it would come down to a showdown between Bautista and Delgado. 

So here is the matchup:  in one corner we have 2010 Jose Bautista (season still continuing of course, so counting stats will improve but rates shouldn’t move much) and in the other corner all the way from Puerto Rico it’s the 2000 Carlos Delgado.

First, we will start with some standard counting stats:

  PA H 2B HR RBI R BB K IBB
’10 JB* 683 148 35 54 124 109 100 116 2
’00 CD 711 196 57 41 137 115 123 104 18

Let’s now look at some more advanced numbers:

  AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB/K wRC+ wOBA WAR
’10 JB .260 .378 .618 .995 .357 0.86 167 .422 6.9
’00 CD .344 .470 .664 1.134 .320 1.18 182 .471 7.5

 Considering Jose Bautista leads the league in HRs this season, has 100+ RBIs, 100 BBs and basically having a once in a lifetime season yet his numbers still pale in comparison to Carlos Delgado’s 2000 I have to ask a couple questions:

1)      Should Delgado not be given the MVP considering that hack writer from Chicago left Delgado off his MVP ballot entirely, costing him the award?

2)      If Jose Bautista has been accused of potentially using PEDs how has Delgado managed to avoid the same scrutiny even ten years later?

3)      Should the Jays be actively looking to maximize Bautista’s value on the trade market?

It’s a shame this amazing season by Jose Bautista (and Delgado’s 2000 season) has basically been for naught in terms of the teams overall success, it would be nice to hot-tub time machine this beast of a year about two years into the future when the exciting and potentially dynamic rebuild is hopefully starting to really blossom in the highly competitive AL East landscape.  Either way, kudos and a big hat tip goes to Jose Bautista who has put up one of the better Blue Jays offensive seasons of all time, and definitely one of the most surprising in Major League Baseball history.

Jose Bautista is having a monster career season for the Blue Jays in 2010.  After blasting two more homeruns he is currently leading the league with 30 HRs.  While his batting average has been held down by a low .239 BABIP (career .274) his triple slash line of 254/364/580 is pretty remarkable.  In 100 games Bautista has 22 2Bs, 30 HRs, 75 RBIs, 13.6 BB% and 21.4 K% good for a Blue Jays team leading .402 wOBA.  Quite simply, Jose Bautista is enjoying one of the best Blue Jays seasons in recent memory.

Surely there will be some regression in the power stroke (20% HR/FB in 2010, career 12.4%) and he probably won’t continue to hit as many fly-balls period (53.4% in 2010, career 44.7%) but by most standards it appears Bautista has potentially turned a corner in his career after being given the chance to showcase his skill set full-time by the Toronto Blue Jays.  Most of his peripherals look almost identical if you look at BB%, K%, O-swing%, contact %, the one that sticks out his he has absolutely destroyed the fastball in 2010.  His wFB/c (runs above average per 100 pitches) on the fastball is at 2.28 (for comparison Vernon Wells in 2010 -0.55) and for his career Albert Pujols checks in around 2.6. 

However this piece isn’t meant to argue to merits of Jose Bautista but rather take a look at why the Blue Jays might be better off to keep a veteran player like Bautista.  There is a common misconception when a team is rebuilding that the path to success (or the playoffs) is linear with a near exact timeline.  The truth is rebuilding teams often arrive suddenly and without much warning – see the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008. 

Sure we knew the Rays had been stockpiling talent for years with the plethora of high and talented draft picks (David Price, Evan Longoria, BJ Upton, Jeff Niemann, Carl Crawford etc) but we did not foresee such a monumental rise in 2008, at least I didn’t and I doubt most people did.  Everything came together for that young and supposedly rebuilding team and it appears as long as the bank doesn’t totally dry up they will be highly competitive for the next decade. 

Now most people feel it was the young talent all arriving at the same time, developing like crops in the minor leagues, finally ready for harvest.  But baseball does not work that way, Carl Crawford was established and steady, Evan Longoria was a rookie sensation like no other, BJ Upton was showing signs of regression, Jeff Niemann didn’t contribute much and David Price was only ready to help out of the bullpen. 

The young talent was there, and it was real.  But without their own Jose Bautista in Carlos Pena (who was 30 during the 2008 season) who led the team in HRs (31) and RBIs (by a wide margin at 102) where would this team have been?  The Rays also had solid production from two other veteran players in Cliff Floyd, Eric Hinske and Jason Bartlett during the heat of a pennant race and the presence of a few players with a bit of veteran savvy couldn’t have hurt.

My point is who is to say the Jays couldn’t be in a similar position next season in 2011?  The likely return of a couple borderline prospects are not likely to produce anywhere near Bautista in the next 2-3 years, or ever.  The starting rotation is starting to look impressive if not deep with Ricky Romero (ranked #48 on Fangraphs prestigious top 50 trade value series) Shaun Marcum, Brandon Morrow, Brett Cecil and potentially youngsters like Kyle Drabek or Marc Rzcepcynski.

Two of the Jays best hitters from 2009 are having relatively miserable seasons in Adam Lind and Aaron Hill, one of their top hitting prospects (Travis Snider) has been derailed by injuries all season but seems primed for a breakout year, while there incumbent CFer Vernon Wells is finally hitting back around his career levels.  They recently stole Yunel Escobar (seriously did you see that play last night?) from Atlanta for a journeyman middle infielder (A.Gonzalez) and when Lyle Overbay and his $7 million depart they can either buy a stopgap to fill the need or give the highly touted Brett Wallace every opportunity to win the job.

They could have depth at catcher if they keep Buck/ Molina and JP Arencibia appears prime to burst onto the scene with his power bat (expect a low avg, high strikeout guy).  Third base is a bit bare but again there will be veteran options available or they could try Jose Bautista there fulltime in 2011.  AA and Paul Beeston have both been on record stating Rogers Corp has informed them they are willing and able to spend on the same level as the Red Sox, Cubbies and Dodgers if the team looks to be near annual contender status.

Projected 2011 line-up:

SS Yunel Escobar-DH Adam Lind-CF Vernon Wells-3B Jose Bautista-RF Travis Snider-2B Aaron Hill-LF Fred Lewis-1B Brett Wallace-C John Buck/JP Arencibia.

Add that to a very solid starting rotation/deep bullpen and depending on how AA spends a little extra cash the Jays might have in the off-season this would appear to be a team nearly ready to contend.  Carlos Pena was 30 years old in 2008 when the Rays went on a magical run to win the AL East, Jose Bautista will be 30 years old during the 2011 season.  There is no correlation of course but I’m just saying sometimes the Jose Bautista’s of the world can help turn a “good young team” into a contending team.

On the flip side, if a team wants to trade 2 or 3 of its best (and cost controlled) prospects our way for Bautista, we’d be crazy to turn them down, but I just see that type of return as highly unlikely.