It’s already been 11 games into the Blue Jays’ Spring Training festivities, and as we go deeper and deeper into March the closer and closer we come to regulation baseball. Already have most of the big roster questions been answered by manager John Gibbons, specifically when it comes to the starting rotation order, backup catcher, starting second baseman and most of the bullpen. So what can we expect for the rest of the month before the games start to count? Here’s a short list of the Do’s and Don’ts to pay attention to when you’re watching the Blue Jays’ Spring Training games.
Do become familiar with the names and faces of new Blue Jays members
Between October 2012 to the present day the Blue Jays have been very busy, acquiring pitching talent like R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Esmil Rogers, Jeremy Jeffress, a true LF player in Melky Cabrera, a versitile second baseman in either Maicer Izturis or Emilio Bonifacio, a bonafide elite shortstop in Jose Reyes, back up catchers Josh Thole, Mike Nickeas, Henry Blanco and signed player/mascot Mark DeRosa among numerous waiver claims and minor league roster signings. That’s about 13 new players expected to contribute to the Blue Jays in one way or another. Because they can’t all be everyday players, watching them in Spring Training provides a great opportunity to see each player’s individual strengths, weaknesses and personality traits in a relaxed setting.
Don’t look too much into Spring Training stats
Spring Training allows all 30 Major League Baseball clubs to see firsthand the development of young organizational players, the recovery of previously-injured players, ease starting pitchers back into live play as they work on their off-season stuff, as well as vet which players would be right to be the opening day starters in key positions. By doing this, the level of competition faced is significantly lower than that of a regular season MLB game. That’s why people like Lance Zawadzki can hit .462 in Spring Training. All you get in Spring Training is small sample sizes, something to keep in mind when you see elite players struggling or weaker players excelling. Rajai Davis didn’t keep up his 4 HR/21 games pace after 2011′s Spring Training; he only hit 1 HR during that entire regular season over 320 AB. As well, Travis Snider provided a much better Spring Training offering in 2012 than competitor Eric Thames, yet it was Snider who was sent back down to AAA while Thames remained with the big club. The managers don’t look too much into the stats; you shouldn’t, either!
Do make note of the recovery and conditioning for specific Blue Jays players
Jose Bautista, as most of us know, injured his wrist last July. He was out for most of the remaining season, and only returned to baseball activities in December. As the amount of players with similar wrist injuries is small (including recently injured Mark Teixeira, who will be out 2-3 months), it is unknown the extent of how Joey Bats will recover. However, after hitting 2 home runs in just 18 AB, one of which relied on brute force to muscle against strong incoming winds, it’s welcoming to see the power return to his bat. Of course it is no measure of how well he will be for the Blue Jays throughout the season, but even a glimpse of the strength and bat speed is good enough. Even more notable should be the path to recovery for Dustin McGowan. I’m more in the camp that the Blue Jays should move on from McGowan if he were to be injured again, but with Gibby looking to have him in the bullpen McGowan could be an interesting option, should he make the team. We’ll have to see how his shoulder holds up.
Don’t let your heart get broken again
Last spring, the Blue Jays led the entire majors with a 24-7 record. Things looked up, as the team looked to be the young underdog team ready to take over the AL East reigns. Then almost everything wrong that could have happened, happened. Yes, the new look team does improve in a number of categories, but plenty of teams have done the same (Angels, Dodgers, etc.) and have yet to reach the post-season after dumping a lot of cash into their respective teams. That’s why I caution readers to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Lord knows how often this team has been hit with the worst.
Tags: Toronto Blue Jays