Blue Jays are in ‘rock bottom’

(Courtesy of Denny Medley/ USA Today Sports)

(Courtesy of Denny Medley/ USA Today Sports)

TORONTO- Okay Blue Jays Fans! There’s no need to panic right now. But following last Wednesday loss against the Tampa Bay Rays, the Blue Jays are struggling big time as their playoff chances are getting slimmer and slimmer.

After going on a tear in July and August, the Blue Jays lost their momentum with a 3-9 record in September. As manger John Gibbons said yesterday during his post-game press conference, the Blue Jays have hit ‘rock bottom.’

What’s more concerning is that their best player Josh Donaldson has been sidelined with a sore right hip, which could be an indication of his 0-23 slump at the plate. The 2015 AL MVP is hoping to return as soon as possible, but still fears over the upcoming MRI results.

Even if Donaldson can’t play, his teammates have to step up when the games matter. Their bats have gone cold with a .218 batting average. Russell Martin was red hot in August, however he’s gone cold in September hitting .129. Jose Bautista just can’t seem to recover from a frustrating season. Michael Saunders continues to struggle after the all star break. Their bats are have been so bad lately that Gibbons had to call up Ezequiel Carrera to look for some spark with their bats.

Their rotation have been their biggest strength all season long. But now they’ve regress with a 5.94 ERA in September. Marco Estrada performed well in the first half, but struggled in the 2nd half. He’s also dealing with a herniated disk in his back. Aaron Sanchez is dealing with a blister. And haven’t been as effective as of late. Marcus Stroman have shown some flashes but still can’t find that consistency. And finally R.A. Dickey and Francisco Liriano have been tough to watch. The bullpen has been taxed and underwhelming.

Entering a four-game series against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the Blue Jays are looking to find their identity. The Angels are clearly out of the playoff race, but so were the Rays. The Blue Jays need to win at least three of four against the struggling Halos. But the schedule is going to get tougher and tougher. They will face the Seattle Mariners, who are only 1.5 games back behind the Blue Jays for the 2nd wild card spot. They will conclude their rest of the season facing their AL East Rivals.

The Blue Jays may have pick a bad time to be playing this poorly but there’s still time to turn things around. With only 16 games remaining, the Blue Jays need to play as a whole in order to keep their playoffs hopes alive. Every single games are very crucial for the Blue Jays.

2016 NFL Season Predictions

(Courtesy of Elaine Thompson/Associated Press)

(Courtesy of Elaine Thompson/Associated Press)

TORONTO- Hey Football Fans! It’s that time again! Football season is back. Here’s my season prediction for the upcoming NFL Season, which kicks off tonight beginning with a Super Bowl rematch between the defending champs Denver Broncos (minus Peyton Manning of course) and Carolina Panthers.

AFC East:

New England Patriots

Even with Tom Brady out for the first four games with a suspension, the Patriots will still compete when their starting quarterback returns. Bill Belichek is a great head coach. They have weapons on offense with WR Julian Edelman coming back from injury and TE Rob Gronkowski is a beast, as long he stays healthy.

Buffalo Bills

The Bills may have seemed to found their franchise quarterback with Tyrod Tyler. Head Coach Rex Ryan helped improved their defense. WR Sammy Watkins has shown the potential to be a number one receiver. But they will rely on RB LeSean McCoy to stay healthy and look to find his groove like his old days in Philly.

New York Jets

They have a brutal schedule to start their season, as they will face 5 playoff teams to start. It could be a tight race in a tough division. Their defense may be the only reason why the Jets will compete thanks to the return of CB Darrelle Revis. But with no solution at quarterback, that can be difficult to see the Jets compete for a wild card spot.

Miami Dolphins

New head Coach Adam Gase will look to solve all of the Dolphins problems. QB Ryan Tannehill has a sold receiving core with Jarvis Landry, but did lose RB Lamar Miller, who signed with Houston. Their front four is solid with Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake, but their secondary struggled last season. They hoping that CB Byron Maxwell can rebound and improve that department after struggling last year with the Eagles.

AFC North:

Pittsburgh Steelers

Big Ben, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown could be the best QB-RB-WR combo since the 1990s Cowboys’ triplets with Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and Emmitt Smith. They got pass rushing and an explosive offense. If their secondary improves, they can be a threat to win a Super Bowl.

Cincinnati Bengals

Andy Dalton may have the best season of his career last year. But can he still get over his playoff hump. A.J. Green is still one of the top wide receivers in the game. Their defense is underrated led by DT Geno Atkins. But the key for them is to win when the game matters the most, the playoffs.

Baltimore Ravens

The good news is that their reliable veterans like QB Joe Flacco, WR Steve Smith and OLB Terrell Suggs are all returning from injuries. The bad news, this team is far away from competing. They need better protection from their offensive line and their defense need to improve. With the Bengals and Steelers compete, it may be too much for the Ravens to burden

Cleveland Browns

Robert Griffin III is hoping that a change of scenery should redeem himself after dealing with multiple knee injuries. If he can revive himself, then the browns may have found something. Look for Josh Gordon to bounce back after dealing with drug abuse.

AFC West:

Houston Texans

Coach Bill O’Brien has gone 9-7 twice without a consistent quarterback play. Lamar Miller is their new tailback. And of course, they have the monstrous DE J.J. Watt who gives opposing quarterbacks nightmares.

Indianapolis Colts

QB Andrew Luck is back and that is great and all. But their offensive line struggled and cost Luck to miss a majority of the season with injuries. Their wide receiver core with underrated T.Y. Hilton and Calvin Johnson.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars may have take their next step forward with QB Blake Bortles leading the way. DE Dante Fowler Jr. is back from an ACL injury and that should help the pass rush. They continue to stockpile talen through free agency and draft, including 1st Round pick Jalen Ramsey. They may look to break out their playoff drought for the first time since 2007.

Tennessee Titans

The Titans seems committed give their franchise QB Marcu Mariota some help. RB DeMarco Murray joining the Heisman Trophy tandem of  Mariota and RB Derrick Henry. But their defense not that good to compete with the Texans, Colts and Jaguars.

AFC South:

Denver Broncos

With Peyton Manning retired, they are hoping that Trevor Sieman could help Denver retain their Super Bowl title. They still have OLB Von Miller to lead his defense. But the question is going to be the production of the quarter back. At least WR Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Saunders should help that out.

Oakland Raiders

It’s hard to believe that the Raiders could make the playoffs. They are looking very good with third year stars in DE Khalil Mack and QB Derek Carr. WR Amari Cooper has shown potential as a star receiver. Finally, there may be hope in Oakland after all.

Kansas City Chief

The Chiefs’ defense is very good, but suffered a loss of OLB Justin Houston with an ACL injury. They will be in the hunt within the division. But their division may be tough to overcome the Broncos and Raiders.

San Diego Chargers

They finally solve the Joey Bosa’s contract dispute. But they are far from competing. Sure they have QB Phillip Rivers and WR Keenan Allen, but his supporting cast won’t do them any favours.

NFC East:

New York Giants

Eli Manning has a lot of weapons with Odell Beckham and company to outscore their opponents. They spend a lot of money to improved their defense with Olivier Vernon to help with their past rush. In a very weak division, the Giants may have the most complete team within the NFC East.

Washington Redskins

With RGIII gone, look for Kirk Cousin to be the man in the nation’s capital. Able to sign CB Josh Norman to get in Beckham’s head twice this year. They may have a brutal schedule in the second half of their season, but could be a tight race with the Giants

Dallas Cowboys

Already America’s team lost Tony Romo due to a broken bone in his back. As exciting as RB Ezekiel Elliot and QB Dak Prescott and a healthy WR Dez Bryant are, that a lot of pressure being put on for two rookies to carry the load. Defensively, they are a mess with Demarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory and Rolando McClain out due suspensions. Even if Romo somehow come back, its too much to burden for the Cowboys

Philadelphia Eagles
Good news is that they traded away Sam Bradford to the Vikings for a 2017 1st round pick. The bad news is, they are still rebooting. Carson Wrentz will get a shot as starting QB, but he doesn’t have many weapons around him.

NFC North:

Green Bay Packers

As long as Aaron Rodgers is around at QB, the Packers should be a very good this year. Jordy Nelson is back and their defense is solid. But can they get back to their Super Bowl stardom like they did in 2010? Will be tough but are still in contention.

Minnesota Vikings

Losing QB Teddy Bridgewater is a devastating loss, but they are hoping that newly acquired Sam Bradford could still allow the Vikings to retain their division title. RB Adrian Peterson may be 30, but he can still carry run the football.

Detroit Lions

QB Matthew Stafford will miss his top WR Calvin Johnson. Stafford is still a solid playmaker but he needs some weapons around him. Iggy Ensah is one of the top pass rusher, but the rest of the defense is shaky. It will be tough overcome the loss of Johnson.

Chicago Bears

QB Jay Cutler turned things around this season. Receiving core is solid with WR Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White. They did lose RB Matt Forte and their defense is concerning.

NFC West:

Carolina Panthers

The reigning NFC champs is now tempted to take the next step to win a Super Bowl. QB Cam Newton is looking to lead his team to bring the Vincent Lombardi trophy back to Carolina. Offense is dangerous good with the return of WR Kelvin Benjamin. Losing Josh Norman is huge but they still have a great defense with Kony Ealy.

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons had a promising start with a 6-1 record but struggled in the 2nf half with a 2-7 finish. WR Julio Jones had a monster year and Matt Ryan is a good quarterback. Their pass rush needs to improve as they had a league low 19 sacks in total.

New Orleans Saints

There no telling in which the Saints are heading. They can compete with head coach Sean Payton and QB Brees still remaining since their 2009 Super Bowl victory. Or they can struggle with their defense ranked 2nd worst and allowed the most touchdown passes with 45. If their defense turns things around, then maybe the Saints surprise a lot of people.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

QB Jameis Winston had a productive rookie year thanks to his receiving core with Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson. But a poor second half cost Lovie Smith’s job as head coach. They promoted Dirk Koetter as Smith’s next successor. The pressure is on Winston to take the next step forward.

NFC South:

Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks are a good team, but lost their wow factor like they did when they won the Super Bowl in 2014. QB Russell Wilson remains of the game’s best callers and their defense still look good with an insane CB Richard Sherman. But they need to adjust without RB Marshaun Lynch.

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals have the most compete offense with RB David Johnson and WR Larry Fitzgerald to help the late blooming QB Carson Palmer. They’re defense is also solid in pass rushing and their secondary is a solid core with CB Patrick Peterson. Could be a two-team race for the NFC South title.

Los Angeles Rams

Relocating from St. Louis to Los Angeles, the Rams are hoping that Californian QB Jared Goff to be their superstar. Their found a new fearsome foursome led by Aaron Donald to sack opposing quarterbacks. RB Todd Gurley overcame an ACL injury to become the top runner in the NFL. If only their receiving core can help Goff to be productive.

San Francisco 49ers

With Blaine Gabbert being named starting QB, Colin Kaepernick may look to find his way out of San Francisco. Kaepernick already cause a distraction by not standing up for the national anthem. They could finish with the worse record and may look to compete for the number one pick for the 2017 NFL Draft.

NFL MVP: Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers

Offensive Player of the Year: Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers

Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Ezekiel Elliot, RB, Dallas Cowboys

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Leonard Floyd, OLB, Chicago Bears

Comeback Player of the Year: Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys

Super Bowl Champion: Carolina Panthers over Pittsburgh Steelers

Decision of moving Aaron Sanchez to the pen is absolutely ridiculous.

(Courtsey of Associated Press)

(Courtesy of Associated Press)

TORONTO- Okay! Here’s the deal! People know that Toronto Blue Jays GM Ross Akins made crystal clear that Aaron Sanchez will be headed to the bullpen sooner rather than later. This has been the major story in baseball ever since the start of spring training.

Okay! Give Atkins a lot of credit! He did add a lot of pitching depth with the deadline additions of Francisco Liriano, Scott Feldman and Mike Bolsinger to make that decision happening. But why in the world would you send an Major League All Star pitcher to the pen when he’s 11-1 and leading the American League in ERA at 2.71 in 139.1 innings? You’re talking about taking a potential CY Young Award candidate pitching out of the bullpen. Really? Are they seriously going to replace Sanchez with Liriano, who led the national league with a 5.46 ERA?

Yes, this may strengthen the bullpen, but it could also weaken the rotation in many ways.

Are they really banking on Liriano to pitch like he did from 2013-2015? Are they banking on Marco Estrada’s back to be fully healthy? Are they banking on R.A. Dickey to have a dominating 2nd half with an unpredictable knuckleball? Are they going to rely on Marcus Stroman to find his consistency? And what about J.A. Happ? Sanchez has been their best starting pitcher all season long and taking him out of the rotation doesn’t make any sense.

Yes, there is an understanding that the Blue Jays’ management want to protect their youngster’s arm and prevent arm injuries long-term. Look at Matt Harvey and Stephen Strasburg. But why worrying about the future when this team have a legitimate shot of winning the A.L East division and perhaps the World Series this season?

There’s no guarantee that moving Sanchez to the bullpen will save his arm. Sure, he’ll throw fewer innings, but he’ll be force to deal with back-to-backs and high leverage situations. That could cause a lot of stress for a guy who can top 98 miles per hour on the radar gun. Keep in mind that the Blue Jays have scientific explanation or logical examination to prove that the decision is best for the young righty.

The big concern going forward is how this would affect the clubhouse. Russell Martin made it clear that he didn’t like the move and pointed out that Sanchez hasn’t shown any sign of fatigue. Estrada believed that Sanchez should stick to the rotation. This could be a major distraction to the players as they are going to have to deal with the media on their tailbones every single day.

Are the Blue Jays management really that arrogant? How would president Mark Shapiro know that no youngster have ever pitch more than 200 inning? Madison Bumgarner did it at age of 24 when he won the World Series MVP for the San Francisco Giants. So why can’t Aaron Sanchez do it?

In the end, Sanchez deserve to remain in the rotation. He pitched well enough. He’s bigger, stronger and smarter. He has every right to stick to his role as the new ace in the rotation. So let the kid pitch!

Blue Jays were very creative at the trade deadline.

(Courtesy of Gene J. Puskar/ AP)

(Courtesy of Gene J. Puskar/ AP)

TORONTO- Blue Jays’ GM Ross Atkins took a creative approach prior to the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline. Despite sleepless hours and non-stopping phone calls, Atkins was able to add some depth with their pitching and two prospects.

The 59-47 Blue Jays got a lot deeper without making blockbuster deals for big names like Chris Sale. Atkins managed to bring in experience veterans with Francisco Liriano from Pittsburgh Pirates, Scott Feldman from Houston Astros and Mike Bolsinger from the Los Angeles Dodgers. As bonuses they were able to get rid of the weak link of Jesse Chavez and add two of the top Pirates’ prospects in catcher Reese McGuire and outfielder Harold Ramirez.

These moves impacted the Blue Jays’ short and long term outlook going forward.

With Francisco Liriano, the 32-year old southpaw brings experience in the rotation with playoff experience. However, Liriano is coming off a terrible 2016 season with a 5.46 ERA and leading the National League with 69 walks. Prior to his horrendous season, Liriano posted a 3.26 ERA with a 9.6 K/9 innings from 2013-2015 and two of those seasons were with Russell Martin behind the plate. The Jays will hand over the responsibility to Martin to make sure that Liriano could bounce back in the 2nd half like J.A. Happ did last season. They will eat up the remaining of Liriano’s contract as they will eat up 13.67 million thru 2017.

It appears that Liriano will replace potential CY Young Award candidate Aaron Sanchez in the rotation as Ross Atkins formally announce that Sanchez will indeed be put back in the bullpen. Not sure why the Blue Jays would do that given the fact that Sanchez is their best starter. Guess they wanna to protect their youngster’s arm to avoid what Stephen Statsburg or Matt Harvey went through.

Looking the long-term outlook, the Blue Jays’ rotation seem pretty set for 2017. With RA. Dickey a free agent after this season, the rotation will be set with Sanchez, Liriano, Marcus Stroman, Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ for next season. That’s a solid rotation on paper.

Feldman and Bolsinger provide amount of depth within their pitching. Feldman pitched really well out the Houston Astros’ bullpen with a 2.97 ERA. The 33-year old righty is likely to take over the long relief role for the Blue Jays. Bolsinger is likely to replace Drew Hutchison in the rotation for the Buffalo Bisons. Both could be able to make spot starts barring any injuries.

Usually contending teams would part ways with their prospects to improve their major league ball clubs. However, Atkins manage to do the impossible by adding two of the top ten prospects from the Pirates. McGuire was a former first round pick in 2013 MLB Draft. McGuire is one of the best defensive catcher in the minor leagues, though there are questions with his bat. Ramirez has a .307 batting average and a .354 on-base percentage. Both have been assigned to New Hampshire Fisher Cats in Double A.

With 1.0 game behind Balitmore Orioles for the A.L. East Division, the Blue Jays are looking to take the A.L. pennant race and win a trip back to the World Series. The Blue Jays are a much better today than they were yesterday. Now its is up to the players to get the job done. They came short last year and now they are willing to take a step forward to win a World Series since 1993. Remember those glory days Blue Jays Fans? It would be fascinating to watch again for the city of Toronto.

Melvin Upton Jr. adds flexibility for the Blue Jays.

(Courtesy of Andy Hayt)

(Courtesy of Andy Hayt)

TORONTO- It seems that the Toronto Blue Jays have already started their shopping spree prior to the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline. The Blue Jays acquired OF Melvin Upton Jr. from the San Diego Padres for RHP prospect Hansel Rodriguez and cash considerations. The Padres will pay $17 million of the $22 million remaining of Upton’s current contract through 2017.

Obviously when evaluating this type of deal, many would look at the production and value of players like Upton and the projectivity of the non-proven prospects. Looking at this trade, Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins took an intelligent approach with this deal. This trade doesn’t necessarly mean that Upton is going be a star like Josh Donaldson, but he does add a lot of value in depth, speed and defense going forward. Plus the Padres have to eat up most of Upton’s salary and only gave up one prospect. That is a huge bonus for the Blue Jays.

It’s been an up and down rollercoaster ride for Upton, but he is having a bounce back season in 2016 with a .256 average with 16 homers and 45 RBIs. The 31-year old outfielder is now the team’s leader in steals (20) and outfield assists (8).

Upton is a decent addition for the Blue Jays in many ways. He’s a tremendous defensive player who can play all three outfield positions. Upton also brings flexibility in the lineup when Jose Bautista need some time as their designated hitter. Upton also adds speed to the roster with 20 stolen base. Upton gives the Blue Jays another bat who can excel well against left-handed pitching, as he has a .913 OPS against lefties this season. Although Upton has been playing everyday throughout his career, he is expected to play a complementary role.

Upton could also add some insurance in case Bautista and Michael Saunders walk away as free agents. Kevin Pillar was the remaining outfielder under control for the Blue Jays, but with the addition of Upton, this means that Atkins only have to fill out one spot in the outfield.

The Blue Jays are not done yet. Now that the offence and defense is set, Atkins can now focus on pitching help. According to Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi, the Blue Jays are going to be in on everybody. Although the market for starting pitching is really high, there are a lot of relievers available that caught Atkins’ eyes. After all pitching is the key to success.

Aaron Sanchez should remain a starter

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)

TORONTO- Let’s face it, Aaron Sanchez has been the best starting pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays this season. The 24-year old All Star has been the story about whether Sanchez should remain in the rotation or be put in the bullpen.

Sanchez continues to impress as he went 7 innings, allowing just one earned run and striking out 5 during last Tuesday’s 5-1 victory against the Arizona Diamondbacks. With his recent outing, Sanchez has already pitch 125.1 innings, which is eight shy of his career high (133.1 innings in 2014). Now that the young righty is 10-1 with a 2.87 ERA, his dominating season complex John Gibbon’s plans to manage his young all star’s workload.

http://m.mlb.com/video/v947110983/?query=Aaron%2BSanchez

Sanchez’s innings limit has been a dilemma for the Blue Jays going forward as the Aug 1. non-waiver trade deadline is more than a week away. There has been some internal discuss about whether or not if Sanchez should indeed go back to the bullpen. If Sanchez remains in the rotation, the Blue Jays may have one of the best starting rotation, who leading the majors with 602.2 innings pitch. If Sanchez is back in the bullpen, he does fill one hole in their back end of their relief core. Either way, the Blue Jays need to add an arm or two at the trade deadline.

Sanchez should remain as a starter. His stuff is just too good to be put back to the pen with his hard sinker that can tough 98 at times. His curveball is just nasty. And his changeup has been his much improve pitch. His mechanics and delivery looks so much cleaner and consistent. The one aspect that is so impressive is his command. He only allowed 37 walks in 125.1 innings.

Sure Gibbons wants to protect his young starter’s arm as many baseball fans saw New York Mets’ Matt Harvey needed season-ending shoulder surgery and Noah Syndergaard is currently dealing a bone spur in his right elbow. There has been a increase total of pitchers needing Tommy John Surgery in the last five seasons.

In the end, Sanchez already proved that he belongs in the rotation and should continue to pitch until he does feel fatigue. Maybe he could skip a couple of starts to not put alot of stress in his arm. Plus you never know if Sanchez is more effective as a reliever than he is as a starter. Though he does have a good track record pitching out of the pen over the past two seasons.

In the end, Sanchez is viewed as a starter and should remain as a starter. A potential CY Young Award candidate has the potential to be the next Roy Halladay and his future is looking very bright going forward.

Blue Jays looking for upgrades at the MLB Trade Deadline.

(Courtesy of Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

(Courtesy of Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

TORONTO- The Mid-summer Classic may be over, but now the MLB is going to be busier than ever as the Aug 1st Non-Waiver Trade Deadline is fast approaching. General Managers in MLB are either going to be buying to fill out their needs to improve their respective teams or sellers to build up their farm system, trying to rebuild and develop their younger players.

The Toronto Blue Jays are in very well position for a playoff spot as they enter the All-Star break with a record of 51-40, two games behind the division-leading Baltimore Orioles and tied with the Boston Red Sox.

Yes, the Blue Jays are playing very well as of late, but there are some areas that President Mark Shapiro and GM Ross Atkins need to address prior to the trade deadline.

Starting Rotation

Now everyone is asking, “Why would the Blue Jays need starting pitching if they are leading the A.L. with a 3.64 ERA and 569.1 innings pitched?” Well first of all, Marco Estrada is pitching his lights our with a 2.93 ERA, however he is currently on a 15-day disabled with a back injury. And we all know that back injuries can flare up here and there. Second of all, Aaron Sanchez is pitching like Roy Halladay, but there are so much discussion with his innings limit and Manager John Gibbons did admit that Sanchez could move back to the bullpen to fill the set-up role for their depleted bullpen. That leaves Marcus Stroman, R.A. Dickey and J.A. Happ as locks in their rotation. Good news is that Estrada is expected to return once they Jays return to the north of the border to face off against the Seattle Mariners on July 22. However if Sanchez does end up back to the bullpen and if the Blue Jays are not convince that Drew Hutchinson can step up, then they need address the starting rotation for not only this season but for many years to come. Keep in mind too that R.A. Dickey is going to be a free agent after this season. Given his age, the Blue Jays may want to look for another starter with multiple years of control.

Some names available for the Blue Jays are:

Sonny Gray, RHP, Oakland Athletics

Julio Teahran, RHP Atlanta Braves

Drew Pomeranz, LHP, San Diego Padres

Ervin Sanatana, Minnesota Twins

Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays

Tyson Ross, RHP, San Diego Padres

Jon Niese, LHP, Pittsburgh Pirates

Hector Santiago, LHP, L.A. Angels of Anaheim

Dan Straily, LHP, Cincinnati Reds

Rich Hill, LHP, Oakland Atletics

Jeremy Hellickson, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies

Andrew Cashner, RHP, San Diego Padres

Jorge De La Rosa, LHP, Colorado Rockies

Bullpen

The Blue Jays’ bullpen has been awful all season long. Blowing up leads, lost a lot of close ball game and mixing guys here and there. It’s just a nightmare for Gibbons to manage. Out of all those guys in the pen, Roberto Osuna has been their most consistent pitcher and he’s only 20 years old. But they need the other guys to step up and do their roles. Now the good news is that Brett Cecil is back from his injury and that should help as Cecil is their only reliable lefty in the pen. The bad news is that Drew Stroen, who the Jays gave up Ben Revere for, has been a huge disappointment. And Jason Grilli, Jesse Chavez and Joe Biagini have been alright but not spectacular. The bullpen is a huge need that they need to address. Not saying that they need to go after a Andrew Miller or Aroldis Chapman type of pitchers. But maybe they need to go after a LaTroy Hawkins or Mark Lowe type of arms.

Names that could help in the bullpen:

Andrew Miller, LHP, New York Yankees (highly unlikely)

Arodys Vizcaino, RHP, Atlanta Braves

Tyler Clippard, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks

Huston Street, RHP, L.A. Angels of Anaheim ($8M)

Jeremy Jeffress, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers

Jake McGee, LHP, Colorado Rockies

Will Smith, LHP, Milwaukee Brewers

Tyler Thornburg, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers

Aroldis Chapman, LHP, New York Yankees (also unlikely)

Marc Rzepczynski, LHP, Oakland Athletics

Outfielder

If only Jose Bautista was 10 years younger, then this conversation wouldn’t happen. But the reality is that once Bautista comes back from a turf toe, it is quite possible that Gibbons may need to shift Bautista at DH or play some 1st base. Plus Bautista and Michael Saunders are both free agents at the end of the season. It is likely that they may need to add some help in the long haul with Kevin Pillar anchoring at centre. Trading away Bautista is not the smart thing to do. Bautista can void any trade thanks to his 10-5 rights. His defense in right field has declined over the past year. They only way they can trade Bautista is to a contender. But why would they do that if Joey Bats can add more thump in the Blue Jays lineup? They still have Dalton Pompey, who could make an impact as a September call up. But if Pompey still need some work, they could look for some help in the outfield at the corners.

Names like:

Carlos Gonzalez, LF, Colorado Rockies

Charlie Blackman, CF, Colorado, Rockies

Jay Bruce, RF, Cincinnati Reds

Yasiel Puig, OF, L.A. Dodgers

Cole Calhoun, RF, L.A. Angels of Anaheim

Peter Bourjos, OF, Philadelphia Philles

Josh Reddick, RF, Oakland Athletics

Mark Trumbo, OF/1B, Baltimore Orioles

Carlos Gomez, OF, Houston Astros

Jon Jay, OF, San Diego Padres

The Blue Jays may have diminished their farm system to acquired Troy Tulowikzki and David Price last season. But they still have some intriguing names that they can use to make some upgrades this season. It is highly unlikely that the Blue Jays would trade their high upside propsects like Anthony Alford and Vladimir Guererro Jr. But they have some interesting arms like Conner Greene, Sean Reid-Foley and Jon Harris that could pop into some eyes for GMs. They also have some position players in Max Pentecost, Rowdy Tellez and Richard Urena that can be use in some package deals as well. Not sure if the Blue Jays will be able to acquire an all star caliber player, but look for them to look for some upgrades for their pitching and outfield.

2016 Blue Jays First Half Review

(Courtesy of The Province)

(Courtesy of The Province)

TORONTO- The Toronto Blue Jays enter the All-Star break at 51-40, two games behind the division-leading Baltimore Orioles and tied with the Boston Red Sox. Last season at the break, they were 45-46, fourth within their division and 4.5 games back.

The 1st half of the franchise 40th season for the Blue Jays have been passable despite having a depleted bullpen and sluggish start offensively. Fans were satisfied while others felt pain and anxiety at times. Manager John Gibbons should be pleased on how well his team performed so far. The Blue Jays managed to be eleven games over .500 for the first time since 1993.

Here is a first half analysis for the 2016 Toronto Blue Jays:

Catcher:

Its has been a disappointed start for Russell Martin. Only hitting .222 with 7 home runs and 36 RBIs. What’s really disappointed about the Canadian backstop has been his glove behind the plate. He only caught 6 base stealers in 43 attempts, that’s 14 percent this season compared with 44% last season. Martin has been more patient and discipline as of late, but the Jays need more from him. Especially when playing at a premium position. Josh Thole has been R.A. Dickey’s special assistant. The backup catcher had his best game during the 6-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers with a 2-run single. Overall, his .141 batting average is not suitable to be a reliable backup for Martin. Grade: C

Infielders/DH:

Josh Donaldson is on pace to have another MVP caliber season, hitting .302 with 23 homers and 63 RBIs with an on-base percentage of .418. The reigning AL MVP became the sixth player to scored more than 80 runs and homered at least 20 times in MLB history. Troy Tulowitzki started off slow with his bat and dealt with a hamstring injury. However, he’s been hitting .312, 7 home runs and 20 since being activated from the disabled list on June 18. Tulowitzki seemed to be the same type of player like he was in Colorado. Devon Travis has been a hitting machine since he came back from season shoulder surgery, hitting .262 with 6 home runs and 21 RBIs. Looke for Travis to be a x-factor going forward. Justin Smoak has been solid with his glove at first base and hit for power. But Smoak continues to struggle to hit for average with a .231 average. Darwin Barney has been a great utility player for the Blue Jays off the bench with a .296 batting average. What more you can ask for Edwin Encarnacion? When you are hitting bombs and leading the majors with 80 RBIs on a contract year, EE is due for a huge payday when he reach free agency. Their defense has been tremendous thanks to Tulowitzki’s presence in the middle of the infield. They infield has been a solid group (or maybe the new infield dirt at the Rogers Centre may help them a lot). Grade: A-

Outfielders:

Jose Bautista is on his contract year. The face of the franchise was suppose to prove that he was worthy of his contract demand (5 years, 150 million). However, the longest member of the Blue Jays was hitting .230 with 12 home runs and 41 RBI. Worse of all, Bautista suffered from a turf toe on June 17 against the Philadelphia Phillies. Good news is that Bautista is expected to return to the lineup at the end of July, but he may have to serve some time as a DH to ease up his workload. Michael Saunders have bounced back from a injury-riddled 2015 season. Captain Canada is having a breakout season, hitting .298, 16 home runs and 42 RBIs. He won the Final Man Voting for the final spot for the American League All Star team with more than 17 million votes. Saunders is a strong candidate for Comeback Player of the Year. Kevin Pillar continues to shine in the outfield with his highlight reel plays. Pillar should win a Gold Glove for his outstanding catches he made from time to time. Ezequiel Carrera has done an outstanding job filling for the 4th outfielder role and taking over for the injured Bautista in right field. Grades: B

Starting Rotation:

The starting rotations was supposed to be a weakness prior towards the 2016 season. Instead, the Blue Jays’ rotation have been a pleasant surprise, leading the AL in ERA (3.64) and innings pitched (569.1). Marco Estrada proved that his 2015 breakout season was no fluke. Despite dealing with a back injury, Estrada has a 2.93 ERA and earned his first trip to the mid-summer classic. Aaron Sanchez beat out Gavin Floyd for the final spot in the rotation and it certainly paid off for the Blue Jays. The 24-year old righty pitched like an ace with a 2.97 ERA in 118.1 innings, earning his first trip to the All Star Game as well. There have so much discussion about Sanchez’s workload and innings limits, but Sanchez prove that he can stick into the rotation with his hard-sinking fastball and improved secondary pitches. Knuckled ball specialist R.A. Dickey continues to be reliable to eat up innings and have pitched better as of late. J.A. Happ has been solid during his second stint with the Blue Jays. The team needs a bit more from Marcus Stroman who dealt with a early slump. The opening day starter need to harness his command and slider to be an effective starter for the start of the second half. Drew Hutchison could see more time in the rotation in the second if Sanchez does go back to the bullpen. Grades: A

Bullpen:

The bullpen struggled enormously since the start of the season. With a 4.05 ERA, the Blue Jays lost so many close ball games and could have won a lot more games. Roberto Osuna has been their most reliable reliever. The twenty-one year old established himself as one of the games’ best closer in the game and was snubbed to be an All Star. He converted 18 saves in 20 attempts and shutdown opposing hitters with a 2.27 ERA. Jason Grilli was acquired from the Atlanta Braves last May. The 39-year old pitched better with the Blue Jays with a 2.63 ERA. Brett Cecil and Drew Storen struggled to fill out the set up roles. Jesse Chavez and Joe Biagini has been solid in the middle of relief. The bullpen needs to pitch a lot better in order for the Blue Jays to stay in the playoff race. Grades: D

Overall:

The Blue Jays may not currently hold the top spot in their division, but they should feel pleased that they are in much better position in the playoff race than they were a year ago. Getting Bautista back should give the Blue Jays a huge boost. Look for the offensive to continue to be explosive with Donaldson, Encarnacion and company. The Bullpen needs to improve and the rotation need to continue to be solid as it is. With their red hot bats and reliable pitching staff, look for the Blue Jays to be the team to beat and win a trip to the World Series.

Auston Matthews is what the Leafs needed

(Courtesy of Bruce Bennett, Gettys Images)

(Courtesy of Bruce Bennett, Gettys Images)

TORONTO- With the first pick of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, the Toronto Maple Leafs selected their new potential face of the franchise, Auston Matthews. After many months of speculation, the Maple Leafs put all of the hype aside and selected the big American product.

Selecting Matthews was a no-brainer for the Maple Leafs as the leafs got their new first line centre since Mats Sundin. The 18-year old American played for the Zurich Lions in the Swiss League last season, registering 24 goals and 46 points in 36 games. This was an outstanding pick by the Maple Leafs as they possible landed a potential superstar for many years to come.

Here is a scouting report of Matthews:

Body: Has a big body frame and knows how to use it.

Skating: Agile skater with very good speed and agility for his size.

Skills Set: He is so polished and poised. Can generate his own scoring chances. Great puck handling skills.

Hockey I.Q.: Creative distributor with the puck with great offensive awareness.

Weaknesses: Can he live up with all of the media attention and the hype in a big market team like Toronto. Not totally aggressive but he will use his size to game advantage.

Overall: Matthews is the ultimate package when you combine all of that with his exceptional work ethic and relentless compete level. He has a great combination with speed, size and scoring ability.

ETA: 2016-2017. Matthews will make an immediate impact for the Leafs this season. Leafs’ head coach Mike Babcock projected Matthews to play as a third-line centre. Matthews can bump up the depth chart once he gets acclimated in the NHL.

Fun Fact(s): Matthews is half Mexican.

Matthews fits perfectly going forward for the Maple Leafs rebuild. He game the leafs a generational type of player to build around. With William Nylander and Mitch Marner playing along side him, this gives the leafs a very nice tandem for many years to come. Maybe Steven Stamkos may want to join this nucleus of youth.

The rebuild continues to roll along as Brandon Shanahan and Lou Lamoriello are still looking for young talent to help stabilized their overhaul rebuild. Now that Matthews is officially a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, this selection is a tremendous step forward. Look out Leaf Nation, Matthews is coming to town.

 

 

 

 

 

2016 Toronto Maple Leafs Draft Preview

(Courtesy of Maple Leafs Instagram)

(Courtesy of Maple Leafs Instagram)

TORONTO- The Toronto Maple Leafs are on the clock. The team will enter the 2016 NHL Draft with 11 draft picks, including the first overall selection.

During the 2015-2016 NHL season, the first year of the Maple Leafs’ overhaul rebuild, the team was bad. Really bad. They were a dull team that was doomed for failure. Head Coach Mike Babcock warned everyone that pain was coming.

President Brendan Shanahan was brought to the Maple leafs with an idea of a complete rebuild. Drafting and development were the key ingredients to turn this franchise around. They got rid of David Clarkson, Phil Kessel and captain Dion Phanuef to stockpile young prospects and draft picks. So the tear down complete, but the rebuild continues until they get back to the playoffs.

The 2016 NHL Draft Lottery was held on April 30th. After painful season of losing and misery, the Maple Leafs’ luck panned out and received the first overall pick for 2016. This is the 2nd time that the Leafs selected first overall since 1985 when they selected Wendel Clark.

Not only do the Leafs hold the first pick, but thanks to the work of team management, they hold a grand total of 11 draft picks (they used the 30th overall selection to acquired G Frederick Andersen from Anaheim Ducks).

Team Strengths:

Young Highly Skilled Prospects:

William Nylander and Mitch Marner are two of the top NHL Prospects. The two have the greatest potential to become game-changers and be among the league leaders in points. They, along with the 2016 first overall pick, will be relied upon to lead the Leafs to success.

Solid Depth of Impact Wingers

With James Van Reimdsyk on the team, the Maple Leafs have multiple depth of veterans and  youngster at the wing position. Connor Brown, Kasperi Kapanen, Brendan Leipsic and Jeremy Bracco represent a plethora of prospects who could be future second or third line wingers.

Teams Needs:

1) First Line Centre

The Maple Leafs can cross this off their checklist as it is very clear that they are going to take Auston Matthews. Although the Maple Leafs have stockpile a lot of young talent, there remains a lack of potential first or second line centers. William Nylander and Mitch Marner have played some centre during their development. However it seems like they are profile as wingers going forward. With the first overall pick, and likely Matthews, that department should be shored up.

2) Potential Top Pairing Defenceman

While Carrick and Zaitsev certainly have promising potential, the Maple Leafs don’t have a sure-fire, blue-chip prospect. With three picks in the first 31 at this year’s draft, one should be used to select an all-around defenceman to pair up with Morgan Rielly.

Most Likely Target:  Auston Matthews, C, Zurich Lions (Switzerland)

Matthews was a consensus to go first overall in this upcoming draft. He has the potential to become a franchise center that the Maple Leafs didn’t have since Mats Sundin. Matthews offers a complete game with skills, talent and poise. He has an electric shot which fires through traffic He is a creative player with a tremendous hockey IQ which allows him to have incredible vision and developing plays to create his own scoring chances or involving his teammates. Matthews is a strong skater with great speed. Matthews is a kind of player, who offers the Leafs a generational type player to build around with. He certainly has the ability to be a game changer and could make an immediate impact for the 2016-2017 season.

What Else Could Happen?

Look for the Leafs to trade veterans like Tyler Bozak, Joffrey Lupul and Jonathan Bernier to make more cap space and stockpile more young talent. With eleven picks, they can also trade some of their picks to move up in the draft or add more help in the blue line or add depth in the middle or goaltending.

Draft Strategy:

The Maple Leafs certainly have the tendencies to draft North American prospects, but GM Lou Lamoriello isn’t afraid to take a risk on a couple European prospects, especially from Sweden.. Look for the Maple Leafs to draft towards more skilled players as opposing to big and hard-hitting players. They rather go more skilled players than size and strength. They love creative players who can play a responsible to play two-way, not one-dimensional.