Jays From the Couch presents some news and notes on the Toronto Blue Jays, including Troy Tulowitzki, Devon Travis and the minor leagues
The Toronto Blue Jays need to ride out the remainder of the 2017 season. More to the point, so do those who follow the team. For those kinds of teams, this time of year means debating September call ups, future contract decisions and things like that.
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The next year or so could be very interesting for the Blue Jays on the international front. According to Ken Rosenthal, Toronto was in the Land of the Rising Sun to scout Shohei Otani, the Japanese Babe Ruth.
Teams, according to scout in attendance, that requested seats to see Otani: AZ, BAL, BOS, CHC, CIN, CLE, LAD, NYY, PIT, SEA, TEX, TOR, WAS.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) August 31, 2017
If you’ve heard of him, you’ll recall that he is a pitcher who can hit…or a hitter who can pitch. The 23 year old hits a fastball up to 100 mph and last season slashed .322/.416/.588 with 22 HR and 67 RBI. This season, dealing with leg issues, he is continuing his success with a .342 average. His power is down this season in just 45 games. He has 50 hits, though. After pitching the last 3 seasons, he compiled a 36-13 record with a declining ERA. In 2014, it sat at 2.61 and sunk all the way to 1.86 last year. The outing that scouts saw was not a pretty three innings. He’s collected just 4.2 innings on the mound this year.
Here’s the really intriguing part: If a MLB team pursues him (assuming he’s made available this year), he would fall under a team’s international pool funds. If he isn’t on the block until he’s 25, he becomes a free agent and a bidding war could erupt. This is where the Blue Jays are likely to bow out. A bidding war is hardly the kind of tactic this front office is known for.
Troy Tulowitzki won’t be back this season. His short term future is more certain than the long term. There are a good number of Twitter users who have an opinion about the cost/benefit breakdown of having Tulo at shortstop. They will cite his declining performance. Some would suggest that a position change would be in order. But, Tulo will have none of that.
Tulo says that people refer to metrics that don’t show him too favorably. He takes pride in taking charge of the infield and supporting his pitcher from the shortstop position. But, if we look at those metrics, it isn’t so bad. Last season, he was worth 10 DRS, 9 rPM (Plus/Minus Runs Saved above average) with a positive UZR/150. 2017 saw him worth 0 DRS and 0 rPM, so those spouting decline have a case, of sorts. But, generally speaking, he isn’t as bad as everyone thinks. In fact, in 2017, he been better than Ryan Goins (-5 DRS, -7 rPM, -10.7 UZR/150).
What this means for the remaining
expensive 3 years on his deal remains to be seen. If he isn’t just blowing smoke when he says he would rather retire than change his position, then this could very well be an interesting development to follow.
Speaking of futures, Devon Travis appears to be the most unlucky player in Toronto after he has suffered a set back in his attempt to recover from surgery to repair a cartilage issue in his knee. Like Tulo, his long term future is firmly under the shadow of doubt. While the club would be silly to simply cut ties with such a young, controllable talent, they need to figure out what they’re going to do if it expects to compete next season.
Enter Lourdes Gourriel Jr. The Cuban export will be 24 when the 2018 season starts and has to be a consideration, you would think. In his first year playing in North America, Gourriel is slashing .233/.268/.338 with 4 HR and 35 RBI. These numbers won’t lead to an immediate big league promotion, though. It is worth noting that he has seen action in 25 games at SS, 22 at 2B and 12 at DH. His 2017 campaign was shortened by early injuries, but the Blue Jays didn’t seem worried when they promoted him to New Hampshire.
Of the “in house” options, Gourriel appears to be competing with Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney, assuming they are even tendered contracts, or Rob Refsnyder. Heck, even Richard Urena could be considered. In this context, Gourriel very well could be the best option.
Over the next year, you will read, hear and see so much on whether Toronto will trade The Bringer of Rain to infuse talent into the minor league system. It is eye opening, if you read into it:
In this situation, the desire to win and to continue to give a relatively new fan base — because a lot of fans that are coming are new fans — a reason to cheer and to come to the ballpark is probably more important than just maybe pushing the express button on how to regenerate and reinvigorate the farm system.
So, a fan favorite who can help the Blue Jays win is worth keeping around, at least in the context of trying to rebuild a system. Folks who feared losing the former MVP may take solace in these comments. Of course, it is no guarantee that he’ll be signed to an extension, but it certainly sounds like that is the preferred route.
As for the minor league system, it may not need replenishing the way people might think. Shapiro speaks to the depth of talent waiting to make its way to the big league field.
You need waves of guys. And behind them, you need another wave of guys. I feel like that’s coming. It’s probably two to four years away that it’s going to get here, but when it comes, what we’ve continued to execute on whether it’s Andrew Tinnish leading us in international, we’ve got waves of guys coming.
That provides insight into how close the likes of Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guererro Jr and others actually are. Whether the minor league system, which is rising in the rankings, provides a healthy does of young, controllable, high caliber talent, or not is a toss up. After all, prospects are just that: potential. Potential doesn’t always pan out, but it would appear that Toronto’s system is in better shape than not.
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