Almost every team in baseball should be jealous that they don't have Alex Anthopoulos. As a Mariners fan, I'm pretty excited that we have Jack Z (can a good GM just get an easy-to-spell last name? Friedman is pretty easy, but I hope I got the "ie" part correct.) and I wouldn't trade Jack for Alex, but sometimes I sit in awe over what Anthopoulos does.
"Toronto made another trade? Ah, probably a steal."
#1: They got rid of Vernon Wells. And his entire contract. Somewhere in the official paperwork MLB had to write "lolwut?" Not only that, they traded him for Mike Napoli! (Of course, they dealt Napoli for Frank Francisco, but still.)
#2: Jose Bautista might be the best hitter in baseball and he's not even close to being on a $100 million contract. Toronto didn't panic but they also didn't let him hit free agency.
#3: They move Shaun Marcum for Brett Lawrie. Tyler Pastornicky and Alex Gonzalez for the 4-win Yunel Escobar. Brandon League for Brandon Morrow. Roy Halladay for a bounty before he could leave FA (which he would have.) Etc. Etc. Etc.
Of course, the Blue Jays still have to figure out a way to overcome at least two of these three teams: New York, Tampa, and Boston. But I won't put it past AA to do so and within the near future. Here come the Jays.
Best Hitter: Bautista
You already know about Jose Bautista and his epic reign of terror over the league. Let me see if I can come up with some fun facts that you may not know... Or at least, remind you of.
Categories that he led the league in last year: 43 HR, 20.2 BB%, .306 ISO, .608 SLG%, .441 wOBA, 181 wRC+. He fell .001 behind Miguel Cabrera in OBP and obviously led the league in OPS. He was fourth in BB to K ratio, and first in Win Probability.
In many ways, Bautista is the closest thing we've had to Barry Bonds since Bonds. A batter that pitchers fear to throw to and so they don't make very many hittable pitches and he still leads the majors in HR. All due respect to the best hitters in the game, Bautista is on another level and if he's anything like Bonds, he's got another decade left in him and he'll be a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame. Yes, Jose Bautista in the HoF.
Best Pitcher: Ricky Romero
I'm not bitter about the fact that the Jays handled Brandon Morrow better than the M's did and so he had a great strikeout year last year, but here's the issue: In only two fewer starts than Romero, Morrow pitched 45.2 fewer innings(!) He's a <6 inning pitcher with a 4.72 ERA because he still walks to many, doesn't induce groundballs in Rogers, doesn't go 6 innings.
Romero went 225 innings, posted a 2.92 ERA, struck out 7 per 9, and won 15 games. Morrow might be better in a single start, but Romero is better over a full season.
Potential Breakout: Brett Lawrie
Robert is right when he says that Lawrie is a potential disappointment. If you're drafting Lawrie as a 30 HR, 100 RBI, 100 R, .600 slugging third baseman, you may be disappointed. He should be drafted as what he is: A 22-year-old with 171 major league at-bats under his belt. Have we learned nothing from the Jay Bruce, Matt Wieters, Austin Kearns, Delmon Young, Jason Heyward's of the world? Great prospect does NOT equal great production in your first full season.
You don't have to be the guy that drafts Lawrie far too early. Let someone else do it and maybe Lawrie will struggle and then you can pick him up on the super cheap. If he doesn't struggle, oh well, that guy paid equal value for Lawrie, it wasn't an upside value pick. So, Lawrie DEFINITELY belongs in the disappointment category, but he also belongs here because of Rogers Centre and potentially having a good run-producing lineup around him because Lawrie has MVP-potential... eventually.
In addition to him, Travis Snider has still shown flashes of greatness in his young career and is only 24. Don't give up on him yet.
Henderson Alvarez is only 22 and showed amazing control last year with only 8 walks in 63.2 innings.
Potential Disappointment: J.P. Arencibia, Morrow, Lawrie
I can't put much faith in a 25-year-old that hits .219, even if he's a catcher with 30 HR power. It's hard to keep starting someone that could be below the Mendoza line at any moment.
Morrow and Lawrie for the reasons already listed.
With Lawrie "graduated" we can officially concentrate on the guys that aren't in Toronto yet, and boy do they have some good ones in the pipeline.
d'Arnaud, acquired in the Halladay package, will be the eventual replacement for Arencibia as a catcher that can actually hit above .240. The 23-year-old hit .311/.371/.542 in AA last year with 33 double and 21 home runs. He did strikeout 100 times compared to 33 walks, something we'd like to see improvement on, but he should still be one of the top hitting catchers in the big leagues, perhaps as soon as mid-season. He's BA's #17 overall prospect.
Some people are split on the upside of Gose, the #39 prospect in baseball, but no one is undecided on his speed. Gose stole 70 bases and was only caught 15 times in 137 games last year. He also hit 16 home runs with a .253/.349/.415 average. He could be one of the top leadoff hitters in baseball by 2014.
Marisnick, the #67 prospect in baseball, is a hot pick to be a top 10 prospect next season. He hit .320/.392/.496 with 14 HR and 37 stolen bases in 118 single-A games last year. The 21-year-old could become a middle-of-the-order bat with speed and one of the top outfielders in fantasy by 2015.
Norris was seen by many as the top high school pitcher in the draft last year and Toronto was able to draft him in the 2nd round and sign him. He'll make his debut this year in the minors.
Watch out for Justin Nicolino. The 2010 2nd rounder pitched 61 innings over 2 levels last year and struck out 73 against only 13 walks with 39 hits allowed and a 1.33 ERA. He'll go back to Lansing in the Midwest league and might see his stock vault to being a top 20 pitching prospect.
Sanchez went a round ahead of Nicolino and wasn't quite as dominant but he racks up strikeouts and could become just as good or better than Nicolino if he can get his walks down.
Then there's Syndergaard who went between those two pitchers in 2010. 59 strikeouts, 18 walks in 59 innings in 2011. All three of these pitchers are under 20 and by 2016 it wouldn't be hard to see one or all three of them becoming above-average to great starting pitchers in the majors. The Blue Jays need pitching help and they've got a few great prospects.
Oh, the 2010 draft? Yeah, their first pick that year was Deck McGuire. He'll go back to AA this season, where he pitched 20.2 innings and struck out 22 against 7 walks with a 4.35 ERA. He could help out the Jays by 2013.
You want more pitching prospects? Hutchison was a 15th round pick in 2009. He struck out 171 and walked only 35 in 149.1 innings across three levels. He'll join McGuire in AA this season.
Finally, there's Wojciechowski. Another 2010er. He could round out that AA rotation and be in the majors by 2013. Unreal.
The Jays system is just LOADED.
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