On Saturday, an article was published on JaysJournal by Ryan Mueller that talked about how the Blue Jays have been more aggressive with their minor league promotions this season, and came to the conclusion that there has been a shift in the philosophy change of the organization. Although the article was very well written, I tend to disagree with that conclusion.
Mueller states the following as the reason why Alex Anthopoulous and Co. have been so aggressive with the players this season:
I believe something WAS indeed said to Alex during trade talks that’s caused him to aggressively promote some of the Jays higher ceiling pitchers since.
Why would we assume that is the truth, when there are much clearer reasons as to why the prospects were promoted?
Let’s take a closer look at the players that Mueller wrote about, and see why it isn’t necessarily an organizational change, but rather, the circumstances of the team and the player that have called for these promotions.
Coming into 2014, Marcus Stroman was fighting for a spot in the Blue Jays rotation and likely would have gotten it if the Blue Jays could not have retained his services for an extra year by just holding him down until the end of April. Once enough time had passed this season that would allow Stroman to be a Blue Jays for close to 7 years, and not 6, the Blue Jays called him up right away. That isn’t fast moving. He was ready before the season, and was moved from AAA to the majors once the time was right. He’s shown that it was a smart move as he has been very fun to watch, and if you were going to bet on the Jays to win any one game, a Stroman start would give you your best chance. No philosophy change there. The team has been doing that since its inception in 1977.
After impressing in Montreal before the season started, Sanchez went down to AA, where he remained for over two months, until he was called up to AAA. This wasn’t a case of wanting to showcase him, or prove that he is closer to the big leagues than he was thought to be, but rather the Blue Jays wanted to groom him for a role in their bullpen later on in the season, and wanted to see if he could get AAA hitters out. He was able to, but more importantly, his stuff played extremely well out of the bullpen in his two Buffalo appearances (even though his numbers didn’t say so), and he made his MLB debut on July 23rd. For Sanchez, it was never about impressing other GM’s. He had two major league ready pitches already in Spring Training, and in order to succeed out of the bullpen in the majors, that’s all one needs. He was not rushed either. For what this team needed, which was a late inning bullpen arm, he was ready, and so he was called up.
Similarly to Sanchez, as a reliever, Daniel Norris is ready to pitch in the major leagues. That is why he has been rushed. He can help out this team in its quest for the playoffs, so he’ll be doing that in a couple of weeks when the rosters expand. Baseball Prospectus grades his fastball at a 60 right now, and his slider at a 55, both above average major league ready pitches. With two plus pitches, he can be very dominant, as shown by his 13K start for Buffalo this past week. However, in AAA, you can get by as a starter with only two pitches that grade as above average, and that is what Norris is doing. His other two pitches, a curveball and a change up, both grade as 45’s right now, so there is no reason to think he would be able to succeed as a starter if he’d have to rely on one or both of those pitches that are clearly not ready for the show. Once again, Norris’ hasty past this season has more to do with the position the Toronto Blue Jays themselves are in, competing for a playoff spot, than it has to do with any sort of organization philosophy.
After dominating the FSL (143 K’s in 114 IP), Cole was the obvious choice to be called up to New Hampshire when the Fisher Cats needed pitchers. In early August, this was just the case, and Cole, long thought to be a non-prospect, was given his shot to get AA hitters out. He failed drastically, giving up 10 earned runs in 2 starts, and was sent back down to Dunedin last week. That isn’t an organizational philosophy, that’s just realizing that the FSL is a pitchers league, and for a 24 year old to have success in it isn’t so crazy. Too see what they really had in Cole, the Blue Jays needed to test him a little. He failed the test, and is right back where he started.
Jeremy started the season with Lansing, was promoted to Dunedin after enjoying modest success to replace the aforementioned Cole, and as soon as Cole was brought back down to Dunedin, he also went back to Lansing. This is the life of organizational filler. Again, no philosophy. But every team needs 5 starters, so Gabryszewski was brought up to replace Cole.
Osuna hasn’t actually played at more than one level this year in actual competition, but since Mueller mentioned him, I thought I’d comment on him as well. He pitched one inning for the GCL team as a rehab assignment, and since then has been pitching for the Dunedin Blue Jays. Hard to use him as an example for an article about prospects moving more to more than one level, when he didn’t actually do that…
Of all the pitchers mentioned in Mueller’s article, Castro is really the only one who doesn’t have a reason as to why he was promoted (aside from dominating his league, which, in the old “philosophy”, wouldn’t have gotten him promoted). He has stayed in Lansing even after struggling and Gabryszewski returning, so this was an actual talent promotion.
Has there been a change in philosophy? No, I don’t think so. The Blue Jays, for the first time in Anthopoulos’ tenure are in a position where the goal is winning at the big league level, so if the opportunity is there for players like Stroman, Sanchez, and Norris to help the big club, they have and will do it. I don’t think that’s a philosophy, it just makes sense that you use your best pitchers in the major leagues when you’re trying to make the playoffs. As for the other promotions, they all had logical reasons behind them. Yes, as Mueller points out, pitchers at the higher levels have more value, but I don’t think that was the reason behind any of these moves. As for this statement from Mueller…
Alex moves all these guys up and fills the upper minors to show fans and management that he has accomplished everything he said he would. He made the team competitive and restocked the minors with high ceiling arms.
I really hope Anthopoulos isn’t messing with the development of prospects just to save grace with the fans and ownership. Ownership isn’t that stupid, and he shouldn’t be basing his moves off of what the fans think (Yes, I did just watch Moneyball).
Good in theory, just not so practical.