A “Close to Perfect” Canada Day for Jays


No, the score wasn’t low enough to make it a pitching duel, and the Jays did wind up losing the game, but at least the ovation provided to Roy Halladay as he handed the Umpires the Phillies Lineup Card was the perfect way to greet him and the game was entertaining overall.

Let’s get one thing clear first-of-all, Kyle Kendrick tried his best to intimidate Jays hitters by coming inside on several occasions and against the very best Jays hitters. He almost injured one Yunel Escobar after hitting him on the hand, X-Rays came back negative, and came close to hitting Jose Bautista. My biggest disappointment after seeing him continue this was that Ricky Romero never responded. If he truly is the ace of the staff and sets the tone, he needs to at the very least get really tight inside of Ryan Howard or Chase Utley a few times. Instead, Jose Bautista had to answer it on his own when he hammered a Kendrick pitch over the left field wall. Nice, but not what’s necessary to get in order to ensure that Jays hitters don’t get plucked over-and-over again. I expected more grit from Ricky Ro.

Back-and-forth games are always fun to watch, even when your team loses, because your team is usually in it until the very end. The Jays are suffering the consequences of their decisions made by having their OF continue to be one of the worst in all of baseball without Jose Bautista in it. Rajai Davis has a -0.6 dWAR and Juan Rivera has a -0.7 dWAR, so you knew going into yesterday’s game that the OF was likely going to be an issue. I don’t know how often I’ve said it, but it’s time to release Juan Rivera or use him at 1B to spare Adam Lind once in a while and as a pinch-hitter when needed.

The July OF may be in flux until Brett Lawrie returns and gets the call up to the majors. Visions of Travis Snider or Rajai Davis in CF, Corey Patterson or Snider in LF, and Eric Thames or Snider in RF make me wonder just how much longer the Jays will hang on to some of its dead weight. One thing’s for certain, whenever they have Davis in CF and Rivera in LF, the Jays are setting their pitchers up for disappointment with well under-average performances.

The August OF, however, seems to look much better. Assuming Lawrie makes a successful return and grabs 3B from Bautista, the OF should include Thames, Snider or Davis in LF, Snider or Davis in CF, and Jose Bautista in RF. Possibilities of a Thames / Snider / Bautista OF seem much better than what the Jays have fielded since Snider was sent down to AAA, and having Patterson and Davis off-the-bench also makes the Jays much more dangerous late in games since their speed can be used on the base paths at the right moments. Even if this doesn’t give the Jays the best defensive OF in the majors, it is much improved offensively speaking, so it helps balance their output in the Jays favour overall.

As optimistic a person as I am, the performances of the Jays of late indicate exactly where the team stands in its progression towards becoming a division title winning team. It’s still 4-5 star caliber pieces short. Thankfully for the Jays, their AA affiliate is sending 7 players to the Eastern League all-star game (Zach Stewart was added to the lineup after being sent down), and that represents the first wave of impact players they expect to use to their fullest abilities when deemed ready for the challenge. Add in Brett Lawrie and Kyle Drabek from AAA, and Anthony Gose from AA, and you’ve got a mix 10 players that are close to being ready to make an impact with the Jays.

The current “arguable core” of the Jays roster includes:

OF: LF Eric Thames – RF Jose Bautista

INF: C J. P. Arencibia – 1B Adam Lind – SS (2B) Yunel Escobar

SP: Ricky RomeroBrandon Morrow

RP: Marc RzepczynskiCarlos Villanueva

These are players that are signed or controllable long-term and are unlikely to be moved at all.

When you add in the 9 players from AA or AAA, you get the following “even more arguable core” for 2012:

OF: LF Eric Thames – CF Anthony Gose – RF Jose Bautista – 4th OF Moises Sierra

INF: C J. P. Arencibia – C Travis d’Arnaud – 1B Adam Lind – 2B Yunel Escobar – SS Adeiny Hechavrria – 3B Brett Lawrie

SP: Ricky Romero – Brandon MorrowKyle DrabekJoel CarrenoHenderson Alvarez

RP: Marc RzepczynskiCarlos VillanuevaZach Stewart

My point for displaying the lists above? The Jays core is about to get much, much, much better very soon. From added speed, to better defensive abilities, to more energy and some really gritty play, the Jays core is about to get what CBS would call an “Extreme Makeover: MLB Edition”.

When you consider that the core listed above is missing the likes of Aaron Hill, Edwin Encarnacion, Rajai Davis, Travis Snider, Jesse Litsch, Brett Cecil, and almost all of the current pen, it makes you wonder just which pieces will be moved by the Jays before this season’s deadline. In my humble opinion, any or all of them could be moved if the right deal presents itself. I still believe Snider and Cecil have the highest values on the market, but that makes it harder – not easier – to move them, because the value perceived by the Jays may not be reflective of the value placed on these players by other squads.

As I watched the Jays battle one of the best teams in all of baseball so very hard yesterday, in what was close to a perfect Canada Day performance, I couldn’t help but wonder the following: if the current mis-matched Jays crew can do this well against the powerful Phillies, how much damage will the 2012-2013 crews do?

If I’m right, it’ll be a lot more damage than most so-called experts expect. After all, if this this year’s edition of the Indians can do this well with such a young core, why couldn’t the 2012 Jays replicate such an effort even as they face the powers of the A.L. East?

I believe they can do better with a young group in 2012, and I believe they will do just that.

With that in mind, Canada Day’s performance was even better than I expected, because it showed me just how bright the future of the Jays is with what is a growing core of substantial baseball star talents on this squad.

– MG

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