The majority of the spring has concluded and I thought it was important to state some of the good things we’ve seen in this camp in order to asses whether it was a “good” spring camp, or whether it set the Jays back instead. Here they are, from least important (10), to most important (1).
10 - JP Arencibia – The Power Prodigy
I thought we should start the list with the lightest but most powerful news of the spring, JP Arencibia. If you didn’t know how much power inhabits that wild swing of JP’s before this spring, you do now. He hit 3 HRs this spring in only 21 ABs (1 every 7 ABs) and he isn’t even warmed up yet. Sure, the average sucks at .182, but his slugging sits at .619. He has the potential to be a difference maker in the lineup, plain and simple. At some point this season in AAA, I truly hope he makes headway at becoming more selective and can hit in the .245 to .265 range, because if he can, the Jays have the catching version of Adam Dunn on their hands, and I’m not sure how many teams would say no to that!
9 – Brett Cecil Finds His Form
After 2 weeks of spring training, if you would have asked me what Brett Cecil’s chances were of getting one of the first 5 starts in the rotation, I would have said slim to none. How quickly things change. Cecil, against the division rival Red Sox no less, turned in 5 excellent innings yesterday and wound up allowing only 2 hits and 1 walk in those 5 inning, while striking out 4. The majority of the Red Sox regulars were in there, so that can be used as an excuse. With Brandan Morrow’s issues and the fact that Tallet has been semi-effective this spring, Cecil could get a shot to begin the year in the rotation if he has 1 more great start and Morrow is unable to go.
8 - Travis Snider Shows Glimpses of Promise
I have to admit that I was expecting more this spring from Travis Snider. I wanted him to come out like gangbusters and eat the ball alive. Well, although he didn’t do that for the most part, he did get the 3rd most ABs amongst Jays hitters at 42, and has managed a semi-respectable .262 average with 3 HRs, 2 doubles and 1 SB. His OBP is manageable at .319 where he hits in the lineup, but if Snider is going to move up in the lineup he needs to level the ball and show he can be a nightmare for opposing pitchers. He hasn’t done that yet….well, once this spring, when he hit all 3 of his HRs in 3 consecutive ABs and all of us took notice. If Snider can put together a good April, there is a chance he could be that breakout player the Jays will need this season to be successful.
7 – Michael McDade and Brad Emaus Open Some Eyes
Spring Training is a time when players in the minors get a shot to open up the eyes of Jays management and show them the potential they have in the minors. Well, 2 players took that opportunity and sprinted with it. Micheal McDade, who was brought on in the middle of the spring, has managed 6 hits in his 11 AB, 3 of them doubles, for a .545 average. After crushing the ball in LoA, the 20 year old 6’1″ 260 lbs McDade will get a shot at HiA in 2010 at a minimum, but may just have bumped that up to AA with this performance. He’ll be 21 in May, and he may very well provide some all important depth at 1B and DH in the near future. Brad Emaus, on the other hand, continued what has been a history of strong springs. In 2009, Emaus had an excellent spring, only to falter down the road and wind up with a disappointing season. Regardless, you have to hand it to him because he has really done well once again with his 38 ABs as he maintained a .395 average with 4 doubles and 2 SBs this spring. He’ll begin the year in AAA and will be up with the Jays in a bench role should he be needed in 2010. Having a player like Emaus, who can play all infield positions, in AAA and ready to play makes a huge difference for the Jays as they know they have someone capable waiting in the wings.
6 – Sean Ochinko Gets Time at 3B
Maybe I’m alone in thinking that this was big news, but when a catcher who is known to be gritty, a leader, and someone who can hit in college who gets pushed to 3B in spring training – a time when teams are always on the look out for catchers – I take notice. 3B always seems to be the first position that teams want to push their catchers to if they can no longer sit behind the plate. Russel Martin, Neil Walker, and many others have been tried at this position and it seems to work in most cases. It could be an anomaly, something that only lasts for the spring, and Sean could head back behind the plate in 2010. But if he does stay at 3B, it changes the depth charts at the position significantly. In fact, some could make the argument that he would become THE best 3B prospect the Jays have at the hot corner. Kevin Ahrens hasn’t shown much, neither has Balbino Fuenmayor, and Gustavo Pierre is still playing at SS for now. So to me, this is big news for the Jays system if it comes to pass that Sean remains at 3B, as he becomes the most likely successor to Edwin Encarnacion (barring a trade or high draft pick use). Ochinko has 2 hits in his 6 AB, with a double, and did not make an error at 3B.
5 – Jose Bautista and The Arrival of Mike McCoy – The Lead Off Men
After losing Marco Scutaro to FA, the Jays had no real lead off type player to take his place at the top of the lineup. In the off season, Alex Anthopolous went out and got Mike McCoy off waivers from the Rockies and the Jays decided to give Jose Bautista a shot at the top of the lineup in 2010. The problem is, Bautista has a career .329 OBP, doesn’t steal bases, and hits .202 against RHP. Has it mattered this spring? Not one bit, as Bautista has accumulated a .441 average with 3 HRs and 5 doubles in only 34 ABs. I doubt he can keep that up, but he’s proven he’ll do whatever it takes to stay at lead off and can be effective there – so far. McCoy, on the other hand, has also held his own and his historical numbers match his performance thus far (although he had to sit out for a short period with shoulder soreness). In 19 ABs, the other lead off candidate had a .474 average and the highest OBP of the spring for the Jays at .583 (Bautista sits at .441). With McCoy opening up many eyes in the Jays and Cito Gaston voicing his opinion that McCoy may have won a bench spot – due to performance and versatility – it seems that the Jays lead off position in the lineup is much better off after this spring than any of us would have believed prior to it.
4 – Randy Ruiz Proves 2009 Was No Fluke
46 ABs, 19 hits, 2 doubles, 3 HRs, .460 OBP and .652 SLG – the spring stats put up by Randy Ruiz continue the torrid pace he put up last season (10 HRs in only 115 ABs and a .313 average). Many still doubt Randy can get the right number of ABs to be effective or that he’ll continue this trend, I say why not? He’s mature, has a ton of experience dealing with adversity, and wants to run with the opportunity he’s finally received. I put him down for an easy 20 HRs this season and a very decent number of ABs if he continues to hit as he has. If the Jays deal Overbay early enough, Randy could even break the 30 HR mark, which would give the Jays the possibility of three 30 HR guys for the first time since……I can’t remember when? I’ll look it up, but it sure would make a big difference for the Jays to compete with Randy in the lineup in 2010.
3 – Jays Depth Gets Much Better
Continuing on from the Ruiz bit, the Jays have more depth overall than I can recall them having since the 90s. From the depth in SP, to the ridiculous depth in RP, and the promising bench and AA/AAA depth the hitters have, the Jays have a lot of talent to draw from in 2010. If we accept the rotation of Marcum, Romero, Morrow, Rzepczynski, Tallet – the Jays still have Eveland, Mills, Jackson, Purcey, Stewart, Drabek, and Gonzalez to draw from. The RP depth is so deep that it could allow for 3 guys to be traded – as expected – and still maintain a decent pen overall. The bench of Randy Ruiz, Mike McCoy, Jose Molina, and John McDonald should more versatility, power, and defense capabilities than most of the benches I remember the Jays having. Finally, guys like Emaus, Arencibia, Reed, Lubanski, and eventually Hechevarria who’ll be playing in AAA provide more depth in the top minors that the Jays can draw from. All this is very important, as it is a long season, and everyone likes that surprise story fo the guy who came from the minors or the bench and had a huge impact on his or her team.
2 – Dana Eveland: New Acquisition Proves His Value
When Alex acquired Eveland, I was taken aback at just how many SP the new Jays GM was going after and really didn’t see much hope for him to make the rotation. Well, both AA and Eveland showed exactly why he was brought in and that he may actually be the best SP injury insurance policy the Jays have for 2010. His spring performances, a total of 16 IP with 11 Ks, 5 walks and a 1.69 ERA have been outstanding. With Brian Tallet being inconsistent thus far and Brandon Morrow not being at 100% yet, Eveland could get a shot to prove himself sooner rather than later.
1 - Ricky Romero Takes The Reins
Sure, Shaun Marcum has the opening day start because of his experience and tenure with the Jays, but to me, Ricky Romero has taken over the #1 role with the Jays and has done so with gusto. Everything is down in the zone, he is pitching efficiently, and he is getting more ground-outs than ever before as a result. In his 4 spring games pitched, he has accumulated 14 IP, 9 Ks, 6 walks and a 1.93 ERA. He said that he learned a lot from watching Doc pitch and that pitching to contact has now become part of his priorities. The Jays will need for someone like Romero to take the reigns, because after missing all of 2009 with injury, guys like Shaun Marcum and Dustin McGowan can only provide so many innings in 2010. Look for Romero to be one of only a couple of Jays SP to have 12 plus wins this season, and to really put his stamp on his status as the #1 Jays pitcher in the rotation.