Over the course of the 2014 season, we at Blue Jays Plus plan on giving you live, in-person scouting reports from what I like to call “Public Sector Scouts”. In recent years, there has been an explosion in talented and eager scouts contributing to a wide variety of websites. While there is some value to scouting via box scores, those stats just don’t tell you the whole story.
After he gave us an excellent report about Aaron Sanchez last Thursday, Phillies blogger Eric Longenhagen of Crashburn Alley was in LeHigh Valley to get a look at the Blue Jays other top prospect, Marcus Stroman.
Late in Tuesday’s 9-3 win over the Minnesota Twins, the Blue Jays found themselves in an all too familiar position. With Colby Rasmus already shelved with a sore hamstring and the Jays once again carrying a 3-man bench (but hey, 3 long relievers!), Adam Lind went down with a recurrence of the back problems that have plagued him for the last few seasons. This left the Blue Jays with Jose Bautista in CF, Josh Thole at DH and Jonathan Diaz as the only player on the bench. Not exactly what you would call an optimal situation.
With no off days scheduled until Monday, the Jays were essentially forced to put Lind on the disabled list and call up someone from the minors. But with Rasmus’ return date uncertain – hamstring injuries are notoriously hard to predict – there was serious uncertainty as to who that call up should be. If Rasmus were healthy it would be easy. They would just call up Dan Johnson or Fat Juan (both would require moving Maicer Izturis to the 60-day DL) and be done with it. But if the man with the (former) perfect flow was still ailing, it would need to be someone who can handle CF, like Anthony Gose. So much uncertainty, such a mess.
From the time he was drafted in 1993, until he hung up his cleats after the 2009 season, Sal Fasano had played for 9 different major league teams. Bouncing around from city to city, Fasano was the poster boy for the journeyman baseball player, filling the role as a useful backup catcher for each team that took a chance on him. But like all good things, his playing career came to a close, and in 2010, the Blue Jays hired him to be the manager of their A ball team in Lansing.
After one year at the helm of the Lansing Lugnuts, Fasano was given the reigns to the AA New Hampshire Fisher Cats by the Blue Jays in 2011, and led them to an Eastern League Championship, while winning the AA manager of the year award.
Ewan and Chris have their first joyful show in a while, talking about the goings on in Blue Jays land over the past week, while also interviewing Chris King of Baseball Prospectus to talk High-A prospects who play in Dunedin.
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Music via The Isotopes
This is the first post in what I hope that will become a regular feature on Blue Jays Plus. Well, maybe not regular feature, that sounds ambitious. Let’s call it a recurring feature.
I will take a pitch by pitch look at a particularly interesting, or dramatic, plate appearance from the previous day’s game. The hope is to get a sense of what approach the batter and pitcher were taking as the at-bat developed, and whether or not they were successful.
The Setup: As we travel back to last night’s game, we set the stage for the selected showdown of Brett Cecil vs. Chris Davis, leading off the bottom of the 8th inning. The Orioles are down 2-0. Chris Davis had faced Dustin McGowan three times, and had hit two deep flyballs to centerfield, as well as a sharp single. Brett Cecil had entered the game in the 7th, and struck out the first two hitters he faced on a total of eight pitches. Both players were having good nights.
Over the course of the 2014 season, we at BlueJaysPlus plan on giving you live, in-person scouting reports from what I like to call “Public Sector Scouts”. In recent years, there has been an explosion in talented and eager scouts contributing to a wide variety of websites. While there is some (barely any) value to scouting via box scores, those stats just don’t tell you the while story.
After talking to CJ Wittmann on the podcast this week about Aaron Sanchez’ season debut, I was lucky enough to grab Phillies blogger Eric Longenhagen (of the great Crashburn Alley site) on his way to Reading, Pennsylvania in order to see a truly elite pitching matchup between Sanchez and the Phillies top prospect, Jesse Biddle. He was kind enough to offer to pay closer attention to Sanchez than he normally would and share his valuable scouting notes with us.
Mark Buehrle will be taking the hill tonight as the Blue Jays attempt to move to .500 against the Houston Astros, who are a surprising 3-4 thus far. This will be Buehrle’s first start since a masterful outing against Tampa, where he matched his career high in strikeouts and was a Brett Lawrie dropped liner away from a complete game shutout. Assuming he brings his usual stuff to the mound today, fans should expect more of the same. However, this success may not be solely because of Mark Buehrle. A ton of credit for that first game has to go to the Blue Jays lone offseason acquisition, Dioner Navarro.
To be clear, while I really like Navarro, I also recognize that he is not some ‘saviour’; he’s a decent hitter who has poor actions behind the plate. However, he does bring one very notable skill to the table, his reputation as a tremendous game-caller. This was confirmed by Jose Bautista when he said, ”…I could really get used to the chemistry I see between our catcher and our pitchers.” For 3 out of every 4 starts he makes, those skills make him a decent enough asset to have in the lineup, but on that one day when Mark Buehrle is on the mound, Navarro becomes so much more.
Ewan and Chris start the season off by discussing the Blue Jays’ attempted creative banking scheme, the Jose Reyes injury, and a variety of roster problems, before talking to CJ Witmann of Baseball Prospectus about the goings on in New Hampshire with the Fisher Cats.
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Music via The Isotopes
Dustin McGowan is, and this is perhaps one of my more pointed understatements, an unusual athlete. He was, in 2008, an accomplished pitcher in the Blue Jays organization, with a successful season under his belt at the Major League level. Then he hurt his shoulder, and things went downhill and sideways, and sometimes both, from there. I can’t bear to recap his painful and long term rehab process, but if you wanted to relive it, you could always read about it yourself. The result of Dustin’s long and winding rehab saga is, from a career standpoint, this:
2007 MLB Regular Starting pitcher
2008 MLB Regular Starting pitcher (interrupted by injury)
2009 Missed entire season
2010 Missed entire season
2011 MLB Expanded Roster Starter
2012 Missed entire season
2013 MLB Relief pitcher
2014 MLB Regular Starting pitcher
I have no idea why he didn’t give up a long time ago. I’ve read, often, about how the Blue Jays should have given up on him a long time ago. As it turns out, there was no giving up on anybody, and Dustin McGowan finds himself at the back end of the Blue Jays rotation to start the season. As a fan, I’ve been wondering, what can we expect?
Between March 23rd and March 26th, I was lucky enough to view the Blue Jays at Spring Training. While this was my fourth, and probably last trip to Dunedin for a while, it was quite a different experience. I was fortunate to be given media access to the Minor League Complex, and was in turn able to watch workouts and training that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to see, while also being able to interview many of the prospects taking part in camp. I’ll publish the transcripts of the interviews in this article, except for my interview with Catching Instructor Sal Fasano, which will be published in a separate article later this week, along with a ton of pictures. But first, a few notes on some players whom I saw.