Thoughts on the first week of the Toronto Blue Jays season


Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve had a few people ask me today about my thoughts on the first week of the Toronto Blue Jays season. We’ve already recapped the AL East, including the Blue Jays yesterday but I wanted to share a few additional takeaways about the team:

Melky Cabrera has looked fantastic at the plate, on the bases and in the field. He’s tied for the American League lead in total bases with 19 and has already matched his home run total from 2013 with three. Walks aren’t really the Melk Man’s style (he has none so far) but he looks far more like the 4.5 WAR player he was in Kansas City and San Francisco.

Jose Bautista has more walks (7) than strikeouts (5) to go along with his three long balls. We’ve already written about Bautista recently so I don’t have much more to add about his hot start.

Adam Lind has been lights out and has nine total bases in just 13 at bats. He needs to be held out of the lineup against all but the worse of lefties but if his plate appearances are managed properly Lind could end the season with a wRC+ close to 150.

Edwin Encarnacion‘s bat has looked sluggish and he’s already struck out ten times this year. I’m not too worried about Eddy but he will likely have difficulty duplicating his outstanding plate discipline from a year ago.

Colby Rasmus has also struggled and batted only .087/.192/.174 the first week. John Gibbons has been using him in the two-hole but I don’t think that’s the best spot for Rasmus. From my understanding, they are trying to spread out the lefties as much as possible but he swings and misses too often to be batting that high in the order. I’m expecting Colby to be better but can he survive a visit from the BABIP regression monster?

Brett Lawrie has started similarly slow and current holds a -12 OPS+, which is one reason why I normally avoid looking at early season numbers. Brett had a better spring so hopefully he’ll get out of first gear before too long. However the question remains – will Lawrie ever break out as an offensive force?

Ryan Goins has been brutal at the plate – one hit and zero walks in 16 plate appearances. Plate discipline is hard to teach and without it Goins does not deserve to be starting on a MLB team. Maicer Izturis, thankfully, has been much better and is leading the team with a .500 batting average. He might need to start taking at bats in place of Goins against right-handed pitching.

Jonathan Diaz has been making the most of his cup of coffee with the Jays and has filled the role of Munenori Kawasaki (“clutch-hitting” fan favourite) beautifully. He’s a stud with the glove but please Jose Reyes, get well soon.

Erik Kratz and Josh Thole have both been serviceable behind the plate in back-up duty but the Jays will need to decide shortly which player they will be going with and who is headed back to Triple-A. I like Kratz’s bat, glove and arm so unless R.A. Dickey is still calling the shots I’d expect Thole to eventually be sent down.

Dioner Navarro has done a great job with the pitching staff so far and has showed good bat control at the plate. He’s a big target that doesn’t move much behind the plate and the pitching staff seems to love to throw to him. The Jays have been making use of their three catchers and have avoided playing Navarro too much early. He hasn’t played in more than 100 games since 2009.

Dickey had one good and one poor start, which I guess is what you get from the knuckleball at times. His velocity was up in his second appearance and he’s admitted to having more control when he’s throwing it harder.

Drew Hutchison also had one good and one poor start. His command has been a bit spotty, he got away with it against the Rays but the Yankees made him pay yesterday. Normally he throws lots of strikes but walked three batters in each of his first two starts. He’s a young pitcher who is still learning to command his stuff so we should expect a few growing pains along the way for Hutch, who probably has the ceiling of a number three starter.

Mark Buehrle was simply incredible. Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs wrote a great piece about Buehrle’s mastery last week so I’ll defer to Jeff for this one. It’s unlikely that Marky Mark can duplicate that type of perfection throughout the season but don’t be surprised if he’s once again the Blue Jays best pitcher in 2014.

I’m still not sure what to think about Brandon Morrow – give him a few more starts to shake off the rust and we’ll revisit what he brings to the Jays. Dustin McGowan was apparently tipping his pitches so I will also withhold judgement on him until at least after his next start.

Sergio Santos has been shaky as the Jays’ closer but the by-committee approach has worked well so far in each of the team’s victories. Brett Cecil and Aaron Loup have both been good as lefties. Todd Redmond pitched well in long relief and is probably next in line if a spot in the rotation opens up. Steve Delabar and Esmil Rogers have been okay but not great.