Jays Notes: 2 Hot Bats, Hechavarria and Minors Notes, and More Draft Notes
By Mat Germain
If you didn’t get to watch last night’s game, as I couldn’t either, you still had to enjoy all of the highlights. After watching all of the highlights from 3 outlets and the MLB.com site, I felt compelled to write about the lineup, its future, and why the Jays are going to move up the ranks in 2012 based on what we’re seeing from them late in 2011.
Hot Bats (2)
Can you remember when Ricky Romero and other Jays pitchers were beginning to sound off on how they were not getting the support from the Jays bats that they thought they should be getting? Well, a lot has changed since then! The Jays have scored 5 or more runs in 8 of their last 12 games, and have averaged 5.58 runs over that span. Unfortunately for the Jays, that has come at the same time as the pitching has given up 5.1 runs per game. The result has been a split of 6 wins and 6 losses over the last 12 games. While not a winning run of any sort has come from the offensive barrage the Jays have put on lately, it does bode well for the future of the team and its confidence as we head towards 2012.
If we use last night’s lineup as an example of where things are headed for the Jays, here is the last 10 game performance for them as they were lined up last night:
- Yunel Escobar: 40 AB, 8 hits, 7 runs, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 3 BB, 4 SO, .200 AVG
- Eric Thames: 42 AB, 11 hits, 7 runs, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 2 BB, 9 SO, .262 AVG
- Jose Bautista: 36 AB, 9 hits, 8 runs, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 9 BB, 11 SO, .250 AVG
- Adam Lind: 44 AB, 8 hits, 4 runs, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 0 BB, 8 SO, .182 AVG
- Edwin Encarnacion: 32 AB, 14 hits, 9 runs, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 9 BB, 2 SO, .438 AVG
- Colby Rasmus: 37 AB, 10 hits, 5 runs, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 1 BB, 7 SO, .270 AVG
- Brett Lawrie: 35 AB, 13 hits, 7 runs, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 3 BB, 7 SO, .371 AVG
- Aaron Hill: 36 AB, 8 hits, 3 runs, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 1 BB, 6 SO, .222 AVG
- J. P. Arencibia: 38 AB, 5 hits, 2 runs, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 4 BB, 12 SO, .132 AVG
Grand total is: 340 AB, 86 hits, 52 runs, 15 HR, 52 RBI, 32 BB, 66 SO, .253 AVG
When you have a lineup like the Jays have had for the majority of this 10 game span, which only has 2 pieces (Lawrie and EE) performing at an above-average rate, and you can still average 5.2 runs per game (for this lineup only) over that span, you know you’re doing something right. What this lineup is doing in a better way than any lineup the Jays have fielded this year is driving runs in when they have the chance to. How else can you explain driving in 52 runs in 10 games despite a lowly .253 average. The strike out rate is alright at 19%, while the walk rate would be much better if Adam Lind, Colby Ramus, and Aaron Hill could take a walk once in a while but is still fairly good at 9%.
Still, Lawrie and EE have provided such a boost to this team of late that you have to believe that without them, the Jays could be facing a steep slide instead of staying at slightly above .500. And therein lies the difference between the 1st half Jays lineup, and the 2nd half Jays lineup. While Jose Bautista and Yunel Escobar were the only Jays to carry the load for the majority of the 1st half (as well as Adam Lind for a quick run), this lineup has the ability to get production from many areas. Even Arencibia who sits in the 9-hole has the ability to drive runs in, as his 19 HRs and 55 RBIs despite a low .210 average will attest to. Maybe it’s just me, but pitchers must now tread a lot more carefully when navigating through the Jays lineup, because they know that at any time and from any part of the lineup, the Jays can pile on some runs.
Despite a lot of cold bats in the lineup, I like what I’m seeing in terms of run production. With more seasoning (Thames, Lawrie, and Arencibia) and hopefully an improved bench, this team is going to score a lot of runs in 2012.
Adeiny Hechavarria Doubters
I’m starting to get a little disturbed at how many Jays have completely given up on Hechavarria at this point. It doesn’t seem to matter to them that he outperformed most other SS in AA offensively (show me another 22 yrs old or under SS in AA with 22 doubles, 6 triples, 6 HR, and 19 SB) AND defensively. Or that he already has half of the extra base hits (3 doubles in 17 ABs) that Jose Iglesias has managed (6 doubles in 296 ABs) so far in AAA. He left AA after becoming one of the hottest New Hampshire hitters, and has since managed a very impressive .571/.609/.714 line since arriving in Las Vegas. In fact, BAL SS Pedro Florimon (24) and PHI SS Carlos Rivero (23) are the only 2 SS I see comparing to Hechavarria offensively in the EL.
There’s absolutely no chance that Hechavarria will continue his hot start in AAA into the foreseeable future, but I do believe it illustrates his offensive potential. While everyone seems to be pointing at the fact that the PCL is a hitter’s league and seem to believe it’s the only reason Hechavarria has taken off there, I have to point out that if it were only for that, every single player on that team would be hitting at or above the rate Hechavarria is currently hitting. While I would agree with them if he were hitting in the .300 range with a few extra base hits, he has outperformed that by a long shot (close to double). The fact that he has only struck out 3 times, walked twice, and has continued to show the ability to hit for some power tells me that the Jays can expect more of the same once he has matured into a full-time MLB player. I’m not saying he’ll be a Hanley Ramirez type SS, but I do believe that he’ll rank amongst the top 6 offensive SS in baseball when he is at his peak. Add the fact that he could also become a top 2-3 SS in terms of defensive abilities, and you’ve got a star in the making.
To those who continue to doubt Hechavarria, I completely understand why but I urge you to stop looking at the past and start looking at the present. He is in AAA at a very young 22 years of age, is showing above-average power for the position, is an extremely gifted defensive SS, and will likely be the SS in Toronto for a very long time once he gets promoted. Start getting excited about his potential arrival Jays fans, because it may be as quick as a year before we see him in a Jays uniform and get to see his many highlight reel plays at SS.
Other Minors Notes
Dustin McGowan: How can you not love how this story is going so far? He pitched another dominating outing yesterday for NH (4IP, 4 hits, 1 BB, 3 SO – 0 ER) and still has a 0 ERA over 8 IP in AA while allowing only 5 hits and 3 BB and striking out 7. I do feel that I need to caution his biggest fans however in that he has allowed a .286 AVG in 3.2 IP to RHB while holding LHB to a .086 AVG in 4.1 IP. That tells me that RHB are having a lot of success against Dustin and also that he has been seeing more LHB in AA. If teams adjust to those stats, he could have a harder time getting through games. He is apparently going for 5 IP his next time out and I’m sure all Jays fans will be crossing their fingers that they can see him in Toronto before too long. With Brad Mills struggling, there’s a chance that he could take his spot in the rotation before long.
The Forgotten 2B Prospect, Ryan Schimpf: I answered a question from a JJ fan about just who I saw as the best 2B prospects in the Jays system right now, and I do believe that many people have forgotten about Ryan Shimpf. After sitting out a good portion of the season due to injury, Schimpf has quickly regained his form and is hitting very well in Dunedin. The 23-year old LSU grad only started his season in June and now has a .265/.365/.530 line with 9 doubles, 2 triples, 9 HR, and a 19BB/34 SO performance in 151 ABs. That’s good for a 13% extra base hit rating, something that is nice to see from a 2B prospect. I’m anxious to see how that translates to AA and to see whether or not he can build on this performance. His last 10 games (32 ABs) have him hitting .281/.439/.531, so signs do point to his getting better as the season goes on.
Tied for Tops in 2B Rankings, Berti and Schimpf: If you’re wondering from the Schimpf post who I told him was the best in the system, it was essentially a tie between Schimpf and 2011 draftee Jonathon Berti (21). What a season he is having with the Vancouver Canadians, hitting .351/.442/.405 over his last 10 and .322/.409/.408 on the season. He doesn’t hit for as much power as Schimpf (2 doubles, 4 triples, 1 HR in similar ABs), but he does have more speed with 17 SB (5 CS) this season. The Bowling Green State product is a player to keep an eye on in 2012, as we’ll see where the Jays send him and whether or not he adjusts well to HiA/AA pitching.
Suspension for PEDs in DSL, Aderly De La Cruz and Luillen Guillen: The Jays had gotten a decent season from De La Cruz (18) to this point (2-0 with a 3.60 ERA), as well as Guillen (1-1 with a 1.13 ERA), but neither seemed to be on the fast track to the GCL or above. Each received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for steroids.
More Draft Notes
If you thought Tyler Beede saying no to the Jays due to a $1 million difference was bad, take a hold of this one: CF John Norwood stated after the deadline passed that he said no over a $75K to $100K difference after the Jays had offered him $800K! The fact that the Jays were willing to offer their 12th round pick $800K tells you just how aggressive they were in negotiating with their many HS picks, but the fact that he said no and decided to go to Vanderbilt, as Beede will, due to a minor amount is very surprising. He does state in the same article that his reasoning was that while he was ready to go pro physically, his mental state was not ready for the jump. All the best to him, but that’s a very surprising piece of news to me.
After reading and listening to draft reviews from all over MLB related sources, the concensus seems to lean towards the Jays having drafted extremely aggressively, which allowed them to have a “good” 2011 draft overall despite missing out on numerous highly-rated draft picks. No single source seemed to point to the Jays as having a bad draft overall, but some did express disappointment that the Jays weren’t as aggressive as the Pirates and Nationals to get all top-end picks signed. My argument, as sad as it seems, to them would be that the Jays are not nearly as desperate, having had many seasons above .500 of late. They are also not dealing with a top 10 talent, which makes it a lot easier to walk away from than what the Pirates and Nationals would have had to walk away from.
I do believe, however, that if you asked Alex Anthopoulos whether or not he wished he had taken and signed Josh Bell for $5 million instead of selecting Beede, and he was forced to answer honestly, he would likely say that the Jays do wish they had taken that shot. I don’t think for one second that people would have faulted the Jays nearly as much for missing out on Bell than they have done for missing out on Beede.
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