BJP Podcast 87: Jonah Keri on Baseball in Montreal; Osuna/Delabar talk, Mark Buerhle props and a Do-Over for Brandon Phillips

Jonah Keri of Grantland.com and author of “The Extra 2%” (Buy it on Amazon) joins the guys to talk about his Expos book “Up, Up and Away” (Buy it on Amazon), The Blue Jays and their upcoming exhibition series in Montreal; and Greg, Josh and Chris discuss the Roberto Osuna/Steve Delabar situation and give props to Mark Buehrle before offering a Do-Over to Brandon Phillips.

If you’re in Toronto, stop by Opera Bob’s Public House at 7:00 pm on Monday, March 30 to hear Jonah speak one-on-one with Andrew Stoeten.

And if you’re heading down to Montreal for the exhibition weekend and want the chance to hang out with Jonah and some former Expos, including a charity bowling tournament, check out his schedule at http://jonahkeri.com/2015/01/09/2015-book-tour/.

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Don`t Forget Our Podcast Email-bjppodcast@gmail.com Drop us a line if there is a guest you’d particularly like us to interview, to submit a question to Stump the Josh, or simply give feedback on the podcast. We’d love to hear from you!

Power Pitchers in the ‘Pen, Please (and Other Spring Notes)

As we move into the back half of spring training on our way to “Real Baseball,” the Toronto Blue Jays roster is slowly becoming smaller, if not actually a whole lot clearer. There are still battles at first base, second base, backup C and, theoretically, in center field and the starting rotation (though these last two seem mostly settled). But nowhere is the battle as fierce as in the bullpen. The Jays’ pen produced the sixth-worst ERA in the majors last year and then lost Casey Janssen and Dustin McGowan to free agency. The depth to the relief corps took an ever further hit once Aaron Sanchez became a lock for the starting rotation. That left a lot of spots to fill, with the only likely spots going to lefties Brett Cecil (who is currently dealing with shoulder soreness) and Aaron Loup as well as long relievers, Marco Estrada and Todd Redmond.

Recently, wunderkind Miguel Castro has stepped up to seize one of the remaining spots. I’m now hoping the Blue Jays turn him into a 100 inning reliever (as fellow BJP writer, Greg originally wanted for Sanchez), especially with the improved slider he has shown recently to give him a third out pitch.

Sexy.

But there is still plenty of debate as to how best to fill out the rest of the pen. Do they go with a third lefty like Jeff Francis or Colt Hynes? How about swingman Chad Jenkins? There’s also always out-of-options, former prospect, Kyle Drabek and his new cutter…

The point is, there are many options to mix and match and have a whole bunch of different looks coming out of the pen. But I’m curious to see the Jays go in the complete opposite direction.

Forget your mix of sinkerballers, new cutters, LOOGYs and sidewinders. I think it would be fun to see the Jays break camp with an army of power pitchers – a group that just brings pure heat.

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BJP Podcast 86: Jay Jaffe on the Yankees, and notes on Devon Travis, Miguel Castro and Aaron Sanchez

Greg and Josh talk about the Yankees with Jay Jaffe of SI.com as part of their season preview series, Aaron Sanchez speaks about his new slider and Chris joins the guys to discuss Devon Travis, Miguel Castro and the Russell Martin/Josh Thole/R.A. Dickey situation before giving Alex Anthopoulos a do-over.

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Don`t Forget Our Podcast Email-bjppodcast@gmail.com Drop us a line if there is a guest you’d particularly like us to interview, to submit a question to Stump the Josh, or simply give feedback on the podcast. We’d love to hear from you!

Notice: The 2015 Blue Jays Aggregate Prospect List is Now Up

Every year we like to run an aggregate prospect list to get a better view of who the industry thinks are the Blue Jays’ best prospects.  Within this we aggregated top prospects lists done by Clint Longenecker at Baseball America, Chris Mellen at Baseball Prospectus, Keith Law at ESPN, Jim Callis at MLB.com, and Kiley McDaniel at FanGraphs.  It also provides one place to see and be linked to all of the lists. With that said, the point of this notice is to announce that we have once again made an aggregate prospect list for this offseason!

You can find the list as it stands now at the end of this post as well as under the subheading Aggregate Prospect Lists (by way of the heading Prospects). The list will be updated as more Blue Jays top prospects lists are released.

NameAgePos. HLPBABPESPNFGMLB.comRank
Daniel Norris21LHPMLB121111
Aaron Sanchez22RHPMLB213332
Dalton Pompey22CFMLB432423
Jeff Hoffman22RHPN/A346244
Max Pentecost22CA-657555
Miguel Castro20RHPA+97467Tie-6
Roberto Osuna20RHPA+78576Tie-6
Devon Travis242BAA5N/AN/A898
Richard Urena19SSA-8108N/A109
Jairo Labourt21LHPAN/A69N/AN/ATie-10
Sean Reid-Foley19RHPRk109N/A108Tie-10
Anthony Alford20CFAN/AN/A N/A9N/A12
Alberto Tirado20RHPAN/AN/A10N/AN/A13

Legend

Age: The player’s age as of April 1st 2015
HLP: Highest Level Played, designates the highest level of baseball that the prospect has played at (e.g. Rk, A-, AA)
BA: Blue Jays Top 10 Prospects ranking done by Clint Longenecker for Baseball America.
BP: Blue Jays Top 10 Prospects ($) ranking done by Chris Mellen for Baseball Prospectus
ESPN: Blue Jays Top 10 Prospects ($) ranking done by Keith Law for ESPN.
FG: Blue Jays Top 15 Prospects ranking done by Kiley McDaniel for FanGraphs
MLB.com: Blue Jays Top 30 Prospects ranking done by Jim Callis and co. for MLB.com.

Aaron Sanchez on the Newest Pitch in His Repertoire

There has been a lot of debate over the last few months as to the ideal role for Aaron Sanchez. He was absolutely dominant in the bullpen last year, but had been a starter throughout his entire minor league career, during which time he was widely considered one of the best pitching prospects in the game.

Given the early successes of Daniel Norris and the lack of established arms in the pen, it looked like Sanchez was ticketed for the closer role, regardless of how he performed. All of that changed on Tuesday when erstwhile Blue Jays ace, Marcus Stroman, went down for the season after tearing his ACL.

While I’m sure he would have preferred different circumstances than an injury to his best friend, Aaron Sanchez once again finds himself in the driver’s seat for a spot in the opening day rotation.

Of course, the required repertoire for a starter and a reliever are very different. By the end of last season, Sanchez was basically a one-pitch pitcher, using his sinker a whopping 87% of the time (with the fourseam another 8.5%). You certainly can’t blame him, since that one pitch proved to be nearly impossible to square up.

But as a starter, Sanchez will be turning lineups over a few times. As such, he’ll need to mix things up a bit more. He’ll likely always be sinker heavy, since the pitch is so strong, but he’s also expected to work in his good, power curveball and the developing changeup.

That set alone should have been enough to succeed, but on Friday, the tall right-hander debuted a new pitch. In his start against the Baltimore Orioles, Sanchez started throwing a…slutter? People weren’t sure exactly what it was, and Sanchez only threw a few of them in the outing, but it still had the internet buzzing.

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Spring Training Notes Part 2: Minor League Camp

As you might have seen yesterday, I was fortunate enough to be down in Dunedin, Florida this past week to take in Blue Jays Spring Training. I recapped the Major League side of my trip yesterday, so it’s now time for notes from the Minor League side of things. Dispersed throughout my trip, while taking in Major League Spring Training games, I was lucky enough to get over to the Bobby Mattick Training Centre (BMTC) to see a few prominent MiLBers. Now to the notes.

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 10.38.34 PM

Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar (right) was in Blue Jays camp Wednesday morning working with some prospects like Alberto Tirado.

Alberto Tirado
Tirado was working with both Sal Fasano and Roberto Alomar two days ago in his bullpen session. He seemed to have corrected part of what was wrong as Fasano was emphatically clapping for him as he was throwing. As for what was wrong, I have no clue, but the ball was exploding out of his hand, so that was good to see.

Jacob Brentz
Brentz is an interesting guy because he was an outfielder in high school and only after Jays took him late in 2013 did he become a pitcher full time. Because of this, he is still relatively new to pitching. As expected, he seems to have trouble repeating some of his mechanics. Fasano was working on balance with him on both Monday and Wednesday, which can be seen in this video here. Following that, Brentz had a group of 4 or 5 coaches around him trying to correct the fluidness of his arm action. He was bringing his arm back in a motion that was not so conducive to being compact and there was quite a hefty discussion to decide how they were going to address that. Though the intense amount of tweaking is to be expected for Jacob Brentz given how new he is to his delivery, there was quite a bit of reworking.

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BJP Podcast 85: Marcus Stroman injury, Report from Spring Training, a Do-Over and Stump the Josh

Greg and Josh talk about the Marcus Stroman injury and its potential ramifications, Josh gives his report from Spring Training in Dunedin, and the final segment reveals the toughest Stump the Josh question so far before Buck Martinez gets a special “cliché do-over of the week” award.

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Don`t Forget Our Podcast Email-bjppodcast@gmail.com Drop us a line if there is a guest you’d particularly like us to interview, to submit a question to Stump the Josh, or simply give feedback on the podcast. We’d love to hear from you!

Spring Training Notes Part 1: Major League Camp

If you haven’t been following along on Twitter and/or Vine, I was in Dunedin for the past four days taking in some spring training baseball and covering the Blue Jays’ prospects at the Bobby Mattick Training Center. Although it was my 5th time doing this trip, it was my first time by myself, so it it had it’s own surprises.

In part one of my recaps I’ll go player by player to discuss what I saw at the major league games. Tomorrow we’ll publish my thoughts and notes on the various players I saw at the minor league complex. Enjoy!

Aaron Sanchez
He pitched 3 really good innings, striking out three and only walking one on Sunday. He definitely looked like he belongs in the rotation, and with 2 spots up for grabs now, I think we’ll see Sanchez grabbing one of them. It appears as if Gibby thinks that as well, so that’s good.

Maicer Izturis
Izturis looked great on defense both times I saw him, especially when he made a gorgeous play to end the second inning on Sunday. He has been pretty great defensively so far this spring, although the caveat is that he is playing on grass with a dirt infield. The Rogers Centre has a turf infield, so the situation is a little different. However, the club does have two practice turf infields in Dunedin: one at the stadium and at the training complex. Hopefully Izturis is getting enough practice on those to make his transition to the Rogers Centre in a few weeks go smoothly.

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Stro, Man: Why it Hurts So Much to See Marcus Get Injured

The day was November 21, 2012, an ordinary day for me. At 12:10, I checked Twitter, as I tended to do every five-or-so minutes back then. A tweet from newly-drafted Marcus Stroman popped up on my timeline, and it read:

Some may remember that even at this point, Stroman was already a fan-favourite in the Blue Jays Twitter-sphere. We’d read the scouting reports in addition to Stroman’s own tweets; there was nothing not to like.

If we fast-forward a couple of years of shameless bragging later, we get to August 2014. At the time, I had heard that Stroman and Aaron Sanchez would be doing an autograph signing at the Eaton Centre. I wasn’t really one for going to these events. I’d heard that very few people actually get the autographs and that the line can take upwards of an hour to go through. Had I not thought to get the aforementioned tweet signed, I likely wouldn’t have gone, but fortunately I did.

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