Fred Lewis, acquired in a mid-April trade from San Francisco, is turning into a key component of the Blue Jays. While he started off slow for Toronto, he’s really turned it on in May, hitting .429 with five extra-base-hits, including some very deep doubles. Not to mention that slotting him in leadoff in place of Jose Bautista has really revived Bautista’s prowess at the plate, who’s certainly been more productive since Lewis joined the club.
Travis Snider has also been heating it up as of late, batting .417 in April with four extra-base hits. The big thing I’ve noticed about him is that he’s been getting much better contact, and driving the baseball hard. He had a flyout yesterday that was about a foot and a half from flying over the fence – and Shin-Soo Choo’s glove.
The Jays had a game to play yesterday, and what a game it was. In the top of the ninth, Cleveland’s (interim) closer Chris Perez allowed a deep double to Fred Lewis with two outs, and then induces a soft grounder from Aaron Hill straight at the shortstop Luis Valbueno to end the ballgame – yet Valbueno lets the ball go right through his legs and lets Lewis score to put the game at 4-3 Cleveland. You could tell Chris Perez wasn’t very impressed and he let it get to him, as Adam Lind took Perez for a two-run home run to right to put the Jays ahead 5-4. With Jason Frasor pitching for a single out in the eighth, he came in for the ninth as well as shut down the Indians to lock up the win.
Brandon Morrow pitched well in the game, although he only went 5 1/3 with three earned runs, he struck out nine with his fastball that touched 100 multiple times. Since he sometimes struggles through games and get’s lit up, I’m very happy with how he pitched this outing.
Meanwhile the question most Blue Jays fans are asking is, “What happens to the lineup when Edwin Encarnacion returns from injury?
With Fred Lewis coming in, the Jays logjam of batters has gotten even worse and something drastic will have to happen when Encarnacion gets back. With Jose Bautista currently starting most games at third base, and Travis Snider or Fred Lewis unlikely to sit in favour of either Encarnacion or Bautista, it really comes down to who’s more valuable for the Jays: Bautista or Encarnacion? They’re practically the same player hitter-wise, low-average players with 20-home run power and some speed.
I think that Encarnacion will get slowly put back into the starting role as he has the most potential, with Bautista starting every four or five games, while getting some outfield starts as well.
Top Prospect Watch
Brett Wallace went 3/5 last night with a double, a walk, and two runs batted in, leading Las Vegas to a 13-7 win over Reno. With his efforts he has pulled his average back over .300 to .304.
At AA, Kyle Drabek took the loss against New Britain while putting up a confusing stat line: 5 2/3 innings pitching with one earned run and a 7/2 strikeout/walk rate, good numbers for Drabek. Yet he managed to also allow 5 unearned runs, which ran his record back to 4-2.
Photo courtesy of Associated Press
Lyle Overbay had his first mult-hit game of the season, going 2 for 2 and reaching base a total of four times, upping his OBP to .203, still terrible, but he’s on the right track. Jose Bautista hit two homers and Travis Snider added a solo shot. This is a great sign for the Toronto Blue Jays going forward, Bautista is picking it up and should get slotted back to leadoff by the time Aaron Hill gets back if he keeps hitting like this and Snider needed this homer to pump up his confidence.
Meanwhile, Brandon Morrow had his first quality start and first start anywhere close to being useful for a baseball team. Luckily, he got the start
against the futile Royals, no-hitting them into the 6th inning and boosting his confidence going forward. He’ll need this confidence in his next start against the Rays.
Morrow’s success postpones my plan to get Cecil, Mills or Robert Ray into the rotation, so they’ll have to wait for Tallet’s inevitable implosion. Tallet is much better suited for a long-relief job, the problem with him is he can never work past six innings and usually gives up 3 runs along the way.
Brett Wallace continues to mash at AAA headquarters in Las Vegas. He went 2/5 with a homer last night, keeping his OPS over 1.000 with a .302 AVG. He should be one of the first call-ups in June, there’s really nothing else he needs to learn at AAA and the Jays could use another bat.
The Blue Jays play the second game in their series against the Kansas City Royals tonight at 7:07. Dana Eveland takes the mound against Kyle Davies. Eveland should have another good game and the Jays have a good chance to rough up KC pitching for the second straight night.
(Photo courtesy of Associated Press)
– Shaun Marcum has been named the Blue Jays opening day start… essentially being named the staff ace of the club. While never pitching 200 innings in a season, Marcum had promising campaigns in both 2007 and 2008, going a combined 21-13 with a sub-4 ERA in 310 1/3 innings.
At the age of 28, Marcum can easily improve on those statistics, I think he should put up solid 15-10, 3.60 ERA numbers this seasons, usable numbers as an ace.
– Randy Ruiz is looking GREAT this spring, he should easily make the major league rosters, and get some starts at DH or maybe spot start at first a bit.
– Jose Bautista is also playing great, should start the season as leadoff batter.
Shaun Marcum: Opening Day Starter?
It’s certainly looking as if Shaun Marcum may get the opening day nod, as he has a 0.00 ERA in Grapefruit League play through five innings of work. He has allowed only one hit in his two outings. Although this is a very small sample size, I think it proves that Shaun Marcum is back and ready to headline the staff as he was before he got injured. Look for him to get the start if he continues his excellence.
Kyle Drabek improves on previous start with a two-inning shutout against Phillies
Kyle Drabek, seen by many as the team’s #1 prospect, had a good second outing, blanking the Philadelphia Phillies. He was traded from the Phillies in the Roy Halladay blockbuster, so payback may have been on Drabek’s mind. An encouraging start to say the least.
Jose Bautista continues sizzling Spring Training
It’s going to be hard to demote Jose Bautista from the lead-off spot in the lineup, as he has been tearing it up this March. With 3 homers in 14 at-bats and a .643 average, he seems really motivated to start this year.
With today being Sunday March 7th, the Blue Jays have played four games on their Grapefruit League schedule. They lost their debut against the Tigers 7-6 in a dramatic late finish, but won their next three games rather handily. Here are some of my observations so far:
1. J.P. Arencibia, the prospect everyone revered, then forgot about when the Jays acquired Travis D’Arnaud, seems close to arriving at the Major League level.
Arencibia has been Toronto’s top catching prospect soon after he was drafted in the first round of the 2005 Amateur Entry Draft. He has smacked two homers so far in only four at bats. A slugging percentage of 2.000! Sure, it’s a small sample size and he’s still a long shot from making the team out of Spring Training this year, but still, you have to see it as a bright sign for one of the best young players in the Blue Jays organization.
2. The pitching staff is looking great, notably Brandon Morrow, Shaun Marcum and Mark Rzepczynski.
Morrow and Marcum have pitching two-inning no-hit stints, while Rzepczynski registered two innings with only a single hit, great first performances by some of our developing pitchers. Future top-of-the-rotation stud Kyle Drabek pitched a subpar outing, but it was mainly characterized as encouraging by Drabek himself and Jays management.
3. The Blue Jays 1-2-3 hitters (Jose Bautista, Aaron Hill, Adam Lind) are playing great.
Bautista has six hits in only eight at-bats, scoring four runs and stealing one base in the process. These are great statistics for any lead-off hitter and look for him to lock up the job if he continues to play like such.
Aaron Hill has stayed off the extra-base-hit scoresheet so far, but that’s mainly because of his plate discipline: 5 walks in only 8 plate appearances and hitting singles in two other of the plate appearances while stealing a base. He hasn’t been exciting, but he’s doing a good job so far.
Adam Lind has homered once, singled once and driven in four runs along the way. Sure, his average is .286, not up to par with the other starters, but it’s not because of strikeouts, striking out only once.