May 8, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Juan Francisco heads to first after hitting a third inning single against the Philadelphia Phillies at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Can the 2014 Toronto Blue Jays defy the odds?

Now if you’re able to remove Wednesday night’s drubbing at the hands of the Indians from your mind, you could easily say that the 2014 Blue Jays could be one of those cubs that just won’t go away.

Obviously there will be many naysayers who will point to the club’s shaky rotation, constantly imploding bullpen, and things like a lack of offensive production from second base as reasons why the Jays will fall away from the pack. So to all you naysayers I will say nay to you, and point you in the direction of the 2013 New York Yankees.

If you haven’t completely blocked the 2013 season from your memory for obvious reasons you may recall the Yankees were not in the best shape last year. Missing Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira for the bulk of the season, as well as significant amounts of time without Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez they were fighting an uphill battle from the beginning. Add to that the fact that they were getting J.P. Arencibia like production from behind the plate, and an incredibly lacklustre rotation with Hirokia Kuroda leading the charge with not much else behind him as C.C. Sabbathia battled through a down year. To put their rotation issues in perspective Phil Hughes was allowed to start 29 times, please don’t ask me why.

So with all that stacked against them the Yankees hung in until nearly the end of the race last season. So how did they do it? Well the answer is finding production in unexpected places hot streaks at the plate from the likes of Vernon Wells and Alfonso Soriano kept the team afloat throughout the summer.

Now I’m sure you’re all thinking well thank you for pointing out that Toronto failed to capitalize on the Yankees down year last year, what does that do for the Jays this year?

And I’ll tell you, to begin take at look at the stat lines of these two players.

Player A: 101 PA:  (.300/.366/.544)     6HR  10BB

Player B: 92 PA:     (.291/.380/.595)    6HR    11BB

Now Player A is Vernon Well’s during March and April of 2013, as you can see he turned back time and was quite the productive piece for the Yankees over that stretch of time. Player B is none other than your Toronto Blue Jay’s scrap heap reclamation project, the Juan the only Juan Francisco so far this season.

So even though I’m not quite ready to anoint Francisco as the next Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion, the club is getting significant value out of him at the moment. To be realistic Francisco is not likely to sustain his .975 OPS throughout the course of the season but every game he provides value with the bat is something the Jays need.

What makes Francisco even more valuable is that he is now seeing time at third base instead of just filling in for Adam Lind. This is allowing the Blue Jays to do what some brilliant guy suggested months ago and move Brett Lawrie over to second base. Having Lawrie at second is a huge boost for the club as so far in May his bat has been to say the least, fully dimed as he has put up a 1.024 OPS at the plate in the eight games he has made it into this month. This of course means that the Jays are able to keep the Ryan Goins, Jonathan Sanchez and any of their other limp bat second base options out of the starting lineup.

So if the Jays are able to stumble upon and capitalize on a few more unexpected sources of production throughout the season they may be able to fight through some of their other deficiencies and chase down the division lead in an AL East where no odds on favourite has yet to emerge.

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Tags: Brett Lawrie Juan Francisco Toronto Blue Jays

  • JaysHopeful

    Remember they also brought in Mark Reynolds, Lyle Overbay, and Brendan Ryan – a slew of reasonably successful MLB veterans – to fill in the wholes. They had reasonable expectations of these guys and gave the the opportunity to play every day, which they all picked up.

    The Soriano trade also swallowed a lot of salary. The Yankees spent to fill in their gaps. I also wouldn’t compare Franscisco’s defensive versatility to that of Wells, Overbay, Ryan or Reynolds. Remember when Overbay was doing his Paul O’Neil impression last year?

    I would be very happy if the Jays brought in some scrappy vets to fill in at 2B. I also wouldn’t mind them trying to put Overbay/Reynolds out of a job and trading Adam Lind for Rickie Weeks. Not that Weeks is great, but he’s at least an upgrade, and they don’t need to pick up his option next year. Franscisco would also become an inexpensive DH. Just saying.

    • JaysHopeful

      *Correction: The Soriano deal swallowed all of 7 of 36 mil. What a steal by the Yanks that turned out to be!

      Also, I think the Jays could get more than just Weeks in a Lind trade, Weeks would just be the primary player. 11 mil Weeks salary vs. 7mil Lind salary.

    • Andrew van Laar

      Lind for Weeks are you kidding me?

    • Justin Jay

      I was following along with this up until the Weeks for Lind trade. No effin way. Keep Lawrie at 2B if that’s the option

      • JaysHopeful

        We have two left-handed DH’s, why not get something for one of them? Lawrie has a hard time turning the double-play at 2B, and Franscisco is barely adequate at 3B. I wonder how long term these solutions are. Lawrie is a great at 3B.

        They are so desperate to get rid of Weeks in Milwaukee you could probably get some pitching and a thank you with him. Weeks is desperate to prolong his career and has already hit an opposite field homrun and a double today alone, so you know he’s playing at 110%.

        Hey, I’m just spitballing here, but it’s not so crazy as you might think. Lind is very expensive for what he is, and right now his value is high. There are some holes on the Jays, but DH is not one of them. Brewers are fighthing in the central and you could take advantage with their hole at 1B.

        • Justin Jay

          Conventional stats say no. Sabremetrics say no even more so.

          Sabremetrics say he’s been in a decline each of the last 3 seasons. 124/99/86 +wRC each of the last 3 seasons. His BABIP is currently sitting at a ridiculous .410. wSB is negative and gradually regressed each of the last 3 seasons. K% is about 25%. dWAR says he’s terrible, with a -14.6 and -9.7 over the last 2 seasons. His UZR has the same number and his range is well below league average… at 2B.

          Now for the conventional. His BA is on decline since 2012. Last season he hit .209. Ryan Goins may as well be in there, because at least the defense will be there. Weeks won’t sustain and he’s not worth trading Lind. Weeks is a replaceable offensively and defensively. Lind is only replaceable on defense, otherwise, he’s an offensive force against 80% of the league (RHPs). You could do soooo much better than Weeks if you’re going to trade Lind

          • JaysHopeful

            All very fair points. And I promise I’m not as crazy as I sound; I swear I do know who Rickie Weeks is.

            But I also know that Adam Lind is a DH with back issues and a reputation for not hitting lefties. He’s got 2 more options left on his contract, one more expensive than the last. He can’t really play 1B, and LF is out of the question. But he is reasonably projected to be a 20 hr 70 rbi (maybe 20 hr 80 rbi guy), so there’s value there.

            The Jays have communicated budget restraints, and that having a glove at 2B is inadequate. So they do need a legitimate 2B and some pitching. They have a lot of DHs. There are also guys on the roster who could probably use a day off or at DH here and there to preserve their health (Melky, Reyes, Bautista).

            We’re not cool with giving Weeks a second chance in the land of second chances (Bautista and Edwin). Fine, I totally get it. But what do you do? How do you move forward and fill in the blanks?

            Lind seems like a good option to trade. Brewers need to win, so you might get some serious pitching from them. Where else do you look? Arizona, maybe? Seattle for Franklin – but what do they need that we have?

          • McQ50

            I believe the turf at Roger centre would have something to say about prolonging his career as well

          • JaysHopeful

            Yes, very true. They also say that about every player over 30. This season so far the turf is causing as many leg injuries to young guys (Lawrie and Rasmus) as vets (Reyes and Itzuris), though the severity does vary. Turf, then, seems bad for everyone prolonging their career.

          • Justin Jay

            Arizona, at one time, was the perfect trading partner for Toronto. Now, I don’t know. Towers has managed to crash and burn a once promising organization. Lind’s best landing spot would have been Pittsburgh, as the Pirates needed somebody to tandem with Gabby Sanchez and had prospects galore… problem was/is, no good prospect at 2B.

            Another team that could use a DH/1B is CWS, even with Adam Dunn. Blue Jays have made deals in the past with this franchise, so that helps. Micah Johnson is a slap hitter that seems promising and has extremely good speed. Think like a better Getz.

            Rangers also could use a DH/1B because of injuries… but because of injuries, they’re quite thin. Mets would be another organization to look at, as they could use a 1B and have solid prospects.

          • JaysHopeful

            Thank you for indulging me, but all of these trades seem to address issues for future years – which is cool – but doesn’t take care of the current issues of now.

            Micah Johnson is just getting out of AA and is at least a year away from MLB. And yeah, even if they could have gotten some young pitching for Lind in Pittsburgh it would have been great.

            Mets are interesting, because d’Arnaud is concussed which might make Navarro look attractive, and they have (starting) pitching. When it comes to middle-infielders, Tejada and Flores don’t seem worth it for right now, and Daniel Murphy is probably not on the table. Lagares might be curious, though, but how helpful,really.

            If it’s the case that there is just nothing out there that fits, then okay, let’s ride what we’ve got until it crashes or everyone else does. It’s a long season and anything could happen.

            I’d just like to see some sort of move that attempts to fills the holes in the rotation and field now while the Yanks and Rays are short 3 SPs a piece, the O’s don’t have their starting catcher and are shuffling their 2B, and Boston is still trying to figure out where everyone fits. A trade for Weeks and pitching becomes that possible hairbrained scheme.

            Again, thanks for talking this through.

  • Justin Jay

    Another difference Alex is that NYY was #3 in the AL in Fielding. Huge difference than Toronto, which was 12th last season. Now, if Toronto’s bullpen had been more reliable THIS season, like the Yankees pen last season, now you’re talking about a 1st place Blue Jays team, as so far Toronto’s defense is #1 in the AL, and the Jays offense is doing work. The pen just really needs to get their shit together.