Every week JFtC takes a wide-angle view of the MLB landscape through a Blue Jays tinted lens. This week we look at the 2022 performances of Top 10 Prospects in the aftermath of the Gabriel Moreno promotion and we assess the election hopes for Jays players on this year’s All Star Ballot. Then we look back to 1970 and remember the one time in baseball history when the term “Ball Four” was a good thing.
Featured Images Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase
* Anytime a team’s top prospect is promoted to the majors for the first time, the team’s fanbase reacts as if a new child has been born into their families. The 2022 season has seen a population explosion from the MLB Pipeline Top 10 Prospect ranks, with seven players (#1 Bobby Witt Jr, #2 Adley Rutschman, #3 Julio Rodriguez, #4 Spencer Torkelson, #6 Grayson Rodriguez, #7 Gabriel Moreno, # 9 CJ Abrahms) logging significant major league innings. Fifth-ranked prospect Riley Greene was scheduled to start the season with the Tigers before landing on the IL; Greene is currently on an injury rehab assignment and is expected to join Detroit within the next 10 days.
The widespread availability of scouting information and analytics-based projections has changed the conversations about top prospects from ones of expectations to those of demands. MLB Futures Games, the Arizona Fall League, and the streaming of MILB games only feeds into the frenzied fan chatter around these players. It is not always easy to perform up to the standards established at the minor league level from Day One. Let’s look at the performances of some of these prospects through the first 2 months of the 2022 campaign and over the last 30 days to see how they have progressed with more experience.
Bobby Witt Jr. 2022 season: 7 HR 29 RBI .236/.284/.323
Bobby Witt Jr. Last 30 days: 6 HR 19 RBI .262/.328/.901
Julio Rodriguez 2022 season: 8 HR 28 RBI .267/.331/.756
Julio Rodriguez Last 30 days: 7 HR 17 RBI .280/.347/.861
Spencer Torkelson 2022 season: 4 HR 13 RBI .189/.291/.595
Spencer Torkelson Last 30 days: 1 HR 5 RBI .240/.310/.670
Witt Jr. and Rodriguez did struggle in April, but have made the adjustments to how they were being pitched and have thrived over the past 30 days. It is interesting to see Torkelson not achieve the same level of advancement, though it should be noted the Detroit lineup has offered little protection beyond Miguel Cabrera so opposing pitchers have not had to give the rookie many pitches to hit. Rutschman came up later in the season and is actually experienced his first-month doldrums now (0 HR or RBI .190/.261/.547).
Blue Jays fans should take notice of these statistics as they welcome the Gabriel Moreno Era in Toronto. You cannot fault them for having Sky Dome High hopes after witnessing Moreno during Spring Training and seeing his sizzling early season exploits for AAA Buffalo ( 1 HR 23 RBI .324/.380/.784). Moreno is being asked to not only carryover his Bisons successes in the absence of Danny Jansen but also hold his own at the most challenging defensive position in MLB. Even if he experiences early issues at or behind the plate, Moreno’s meteoric rise through the Blue Jays system has firmly established him as a core player for a team with championship aspirations over the next few years.
* MLB fans Rite of Summer is now at hand with the opening of voting for All Star Game starters for the game scheduled for July 19th at Dodger Stadium. Many fans forego the studying of the stats and simply vote along hometown party lines-whether every hometown hero has earned a spot on the All Star team. Since fans can vote up to 5 times per day online at mlb.com, saving one of those ballots to support your Blue Jays favorites is acceptable and understandable. We’re giving you the benefit of the doubt and will assume you will cast your other ballots to elect the most worthy candidates to suit up in Chavez Ravine.
There are 9 Jays on the official All Star Game ballot: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (1B) Santiago Espinal (2B) Matt Chapman (3B) Bo Bichette (SS) Alejandro Kirk (C) Danny Jansen (DH) and outfielders Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Teoscar Hernandez and George Springer. Given the offensive inconsistencies of the 2022 season thus far, there really aren’t any write-in candidates to consider . So who are the most likely players to garner the votes to start the All Star Game?
Let’s get the two most high profile Toronto stars out of the way first. Neither Vladdy or Bo have had the types of seasons to justify a vote for them to be the starter at their positions. Guerrero Jr. has the most 2nd most homers among first basemen and has sparkled defensively. But Ty France is having a dream season in Seattle and Luis Arraez is batting .367 with an .893 OPS so both have earned the nod over Vladdy. Bo has the Hall of Fame flow with a personality to match, but Xander Bogaerts, Tim Anderson & JP Crawford are outperforming him at the plate and in the field. So odds are neither will even be named to the All Star team unless the league “suggests” their star power will shine bright in Tinsel Town.
Santiago Espinal has been compared to All Star and HOF second basemen Roberto Alomar by every out-of-town announcing team that has seen his stellar play in 2022. If there is an opportunity for a dark Jay to earn enough votes to start, it might very well be Espinal. Jose Altuve has the track record and the name recognition and Yankee fans will stuff the ballot boxes for the resurgent Gleyber Torres. But Espinal will benefit from mock ballots on national media outlets and could earn an All Star spot in his first season as an everyday player.
Alejandro Kirk is an intriguing case study. After a bit of a slow start and whispers about his ability to catch everyday, he has exploded onto the scene with his torrid hitting and praises from Alek Manoah and other Toronto starters. Kirk certainly has the numbers (.325/.885 5 HR), but Red Sox fans are as notorious as Yankee fans for turning out overwhelming vote totals so Christian Vazquez may have an advantage. But if Kirk keeps hitting at his current pace, his fans and family in Tijuana may have the opportunity to travel to LA to watch him start an All Star Game.
The outfield positions always create a conundrum for players not named Aaron Judge or Mike Trout. So in essence we have 43 players striving for one open outfield spot. Of all the potential starting spots available to a Blue Jays player, George Springer may actually have the best shot. Fortunately basic batting stats accompany each player’s name of the ballot. When out of town fans see .280 12 HR 33 RBI .881 OPS, Springer will receive serious consideration. If the majority of these fans watch Sportsnet, ESPN and MLB Network regularly, the spotlight on his defensive contribution will shine brightly on his spot on the ballot.
* Fifty-three years ago this month, the best-selling novel Ball Four was published. Authored by a journeyman knuckleball pitcher Jim Bouton, served as an honest, revealing diary of his 1969 season pitching for the expansion Seattle Pilots and pennant-contending Houston Astros. But Ball Four proved to be so much more than box scores and game recaps. Bouton pulled back the curtain on MLB clubhouses and front offices, showing that even icons like Mickey Mantle were without their faults. It portrayed players of every skill level as human beings struggling with the demands of keeping their families and fans happy while trying to secure their spots on the roster and paying the bills.
If current day baseball fans question why MLB players have become so militant through their union stances, the reasons can be found throughout the book. More importantly, Bouton found a way to make Major League baseball seem more REAL; its players heroic in their struggles and not just in the numbers on the back of their baseball cards. Ball Four ushered in a new era of baseball and sports coverage, one that while it sometimes goes too far brings into focus the business and personal aspects of sports. When read today, readers may wonder what all the fuss was about after the book was published. Within the context of the times, Ball Four was Watergate and war crimes investigations disguised by humor and honesty. If you haven’t read Ball Four before or it has been too many years since you read it, you should make a pledge to make reading this book a part of every baseball season. It is the perfect companion piece for Spring Training, Opening Day; pennant races and peanuts, popcorn and Cracker Jacks.
*Featured Images Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
HEAD ON OVER TO THE JAYS FROM THE COUCH VS ALS STORE AND GET SOME GREAT SWAG THAT YOU WILL LOOK GREAT IN AND YOU CAN FEEL GREAT ABOUT.
YOU CAN ALSO HEAD TO OUR JAYS FROM THE COUCH VS ALS FUNDRAISING PAGE TO MAKE A TAX DEDUCTIBLE DONATION DIRECTLY TO ALS CANADA.
THANK YOU FOR VISITING JAYS FROM THE COUCH! CHECK US OUT ON TWITTER @JAYSFROMCOUCH AND LIKE US FACEBOOK. BE SURE TO CATCH THE LATEST FROM JAYS FROM THE COUCH RADIO
Jersey born, Pittsburgh resident, baseball lifer. Staff Writer jaysfromthecouch.com. Host THE ON FEK CIRCLE on JFtC YouTube Channel. Regular guest on Jays From the couch Radio Podcast. Established WPPJ Rock-a-thon benefit, which has been broadcast annually since 1981 and has raised for than $500,000 for the Early Learning Institute of Pittsburgh. IBWAA member.