ALDS Preview: Toronto Blue Jays vs. Texas Rangers

(Courtesy of USA Sports Today)

(Courtesy of USA Sports Today)

TORONTO- It all started with the “Jose Bautista Bat Flip.” Tempers flaring, punches throwing and emotions soaring. There’s going to be some bad blood during the American League Division Series. After the Blue Jays won a dramatic wild card game vs the Baltimore Orioles last Tuesday, they will head to Globe Life Park to face off against the Texas Rangers.

There are some major history between these two clubs. It all started with a bat flip and ended with a nasty brawl. It will be a rematch of last night heated affair with benches clearing and spark between the two ball clubs.

Before we can see tempers heating up, here’s a position-by-position analysis between the Jays and the Rangers

Catcher:

Russell Martin done an outstanding job with the pitching staff during the wild card game as he helped the pitching to limited the Orioles’s potent offence to just 2 runs. The 33-year-old Canadian catcher is the only Blue Jays’ catcher to hit 20 more home runs for the 2nd consecutive seasons. After being traded from Milwaukee Brewers to the Rangers, Jonathan Lucroy has been the most productive catcher this season with a .292 batting average, 24 home runs and 81 RBIs. With Lucroy’s OPS at .855 and Martin’s 733, it’s pretty clear that Lucroy gets the edge. Advantage: Texas

1st Baseman:

Edwin Encarnacion had a career year with 42 homers and 127 RBIs. Though he has play more games as a DH than first base, look for Double E to get some time at first base over Justin Smoak. Mitch Moreland is a better defender than Encarnacion but his offence just can’t match EE. Advantage: Blue Jays

2nd Baseman:

Rougned Odor may be the most hated player for many Blue Jays fans. Everyone knows “The Punch.” However, Odor is a productive second baseman with 33 home runs and 88 RBIs. Devon Travis became a hitting machine batting nearing .300. However, Travis struggled to make routine plays with 11 errors in limited action. Travis does have a better plate discipline than Odor but Odor wins the battle because of his power. Advantage: Rangers

3rd Baseman:
Unlike Odor, Adrian Beltre is probably the most respected Rangers for Blue Jays fans. Give Beltre credit, he did save Jose Bautista during that nasty brawl. At 37, Beltre is the best hitter for the Rangers this season, hitting .300 with 32 home runs and 104 RBIs. Josh Donaldson was on pace to have a better season than he did last year when he won the AL MVP. However he did suffer a minor hip recently. He 37 dinger and 99 RBIs were impressive but his .401 on base percentage was one of his best of his career. With an impressive 6.2 WAR for Beltre, Donaldson’s 7.6 is just flat out unbelievable. Advantage: Toronto

Shortstop:

Troy Tulowitzki overcame his poor start of his first full season with the Blue Jays with 24 home runs and 79 RBIs. He’s also been a great defender as he only committed 9 errors in 128 games this season. Elvis Andrus is a very good shortstop with great contact and gold glove defense. Although he did cost the loss of last year’s ALDS. Remember? Both shortstops are good but Tulo is better overall. Advantage: Toronto

Outfield:

Kevin Pillar continues to show on defense in center field, but too a major step back with his bat with a .267 batting average and 7 home runs. Michael Saunders’ terrific first half performance earned him an All Star nod. However he did struggled the 2nd half, hitting .178. Melvin Upton Jr. and Ezequiel Carrera have the speed and defense to make an impact, but not so much at the plate. The Ranger’s are likely to have an outfield with Ian Desmond, Carlos Gomez and Nomar Mazara. It is possible that Shin-Soo Choo could be an x-factor for the Rangers as well. Depth of the outfield is a huge lead for the Rangers. Advantage: Texas

Designated Hitter:

Jose Bautista will be use as the DH for the Blue Jays. Though it was a injury-plague season for the two-time home run champ, Bautista still manage to hit 22 home runs and 69 RBI’s in 423 at-bats. Carlos Beltran has been productive during his split time with the Rangers and New York Yankees with a combine total of 29 home runs and 93. It’s a close call but Beltran’s production is too good to overcome Bautista’s late surge. Advantage: Rangers

Starting Pitching:

The Rangers have a boosted up rotation with Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish. Hamels will start in Game 1 and Darvish will get the nod for Game 2. The rest of the rotation is a bit of a question mark with the inconsistency of Colby Lewis, Martin Perez and Derek Holland. The Blue Jays have their Rotation set with Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ starting in Games 1 and 2. The Blue Jays have a better overall depth, which is the reason why they led the American League with a 3.78 ERA. Although Hamels may be the best starter in this series, the Blue Jays have a better rotation than the Rangers. Advantage: Toronto

Bullpen:

The fear of losing Roberto Osuna may haunt the Blue Jays this series. The 21-year old was outstanding for the Blue Jays, but was forced to leave the wild card game due to shoulder soreness. Look for Liriano to make some relief appearance if the starters can’t go deep. While Brett Cecil, Jason Grilli and Joe Biagini have been the Blue Jays’ reliable relievers, the rest of the bullpen has some question marks, especially with Joaquin Benoit out with a torn calf injury. The Rangers bullpen have a few more reliable relievers with Matt Bush, Sam Dyson, Jake Diekman and Keone Kela. Dyson has been lights out as the Ranger’s new closer. But many Blue Jays know what happen that it was Dyson that made Bautista to have the most historic bat flip last postseason. Advantage: Rangers

This is the match up that everybody wants to see. There’s going to be some major combat between these two teams. But keeping their emotions aside. The Blue Jays will look to shut down the Rangers to advance to the ALCS. Despite the Rangers finished this season with the AL-best 95-67 record, the Blue Jays have a much better overall team thanks to their continuity and chemistry.

Prediction: Blue Jays win the ALDS in 5 games.

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A.L. Wild Card Game Preview: Blue Jays vs. Orioles

 (Courtesy of REUTERS/Mike Cassese)

(Courtesy of REUTERS/Mike Cassese)

TORONTO- Let the battle of the birds begin! The American League Wild Card game is going to be one of the most anticipated match up to kick off the 2016 postseason as the Toronto Blue Jays will host the Baltimore Orioles tonight at 8:00pm.

Both teams finished the 2016 regular season at 89-73, but the Blue Jays won their 19-game match up at 10-9 to earn home-field advantage. Both teams are very similar with their slugging and powerful offence. The two teams combine to hit 478 home runs this season. Look for both teams to attempt to outslug each other in this crucial game. The difference of this game is going to be the pitching.

Here’s a position-by-position analysis between the Jays and the O’s.

Catcher:

Russell Martin may not show some flashes behind the plate like he did last year. But his offensive contribution was the key in the 2nd half for the Blue Jays. The 33-year-old Canadian catcher is the only Blue Jays’ catcher to hit 20 more home runs for the 2nd consecutive seasons. Matt Wieters made a comeback after dealing with injuries over the last two seasons with 17 home runs and 66 RBIs. Though his defense took a major step back this year with 11 errors (the most of his career) Advantage: Blue Jays

1st Baseman:

Edwin Encarnacion had a career year with 42 homers and 127 RBIs. Though he has play more games as a DH than first base, look for Double E to get some time at first base over Justin Smoak. Chris Davis had another monster year with 38 home runs, but his high strikeout and low batting average is atrocious to watch. Edwin seems to have the advantage here but Davis could still swing for the fences. Advantage: Blue Jays

2nd Baseman:

Devon Travis became a hitting machine batting nearing .300. However, Travis struggled to make routine plays with 11 errors in limited action. Jonathan Schoop has some pop with his bat with 25 home runs but is a free swinger and will chase on anything he sees at the plate. Both have shown some good and bad moments, but Travis gets the edge with his plate discipline. Advantage: Blue Jays

3rd Baseman:

Josh Donaldson was on pace to have a better season than he did last year when he won the AL MVP. However he did suffer a minor hip recently. He 37 dinger and 99 RBIs were impressive but his .401 on base percentage was one of his best of his career. Manny Machado is an elite third baseman as well with 37 homers and 96 RBIs. Though Machado is 7 years younger than Donaldson, Donaldson is slightly better with is ability to draw walks. Advantage: Blue Jays

Shortstop:

Troy Tulowitzki overcame his poor start of his first full season with the Blue Jays with 24 home runs and 79 RBIs. He’s also been a great defender as he only committed 9 errors in 128 games this season. J.J. Hardy battled through a torn labrum all season long, but he does hit .270 and remains a good defender at shortstop. The nod goes to Tulo because he’s an all around player. Advantage: Blue Jays

Outfield:

Kevin Pillar continues to show on defense in center field, but too a major step back with his bat with a .267 batting average and 7 home runs. Michael Saunders’ terrific first half performance earned him an All Star nod. However he did struggled the 2nd half, hitting .178. Melvin Upton Jr., Ezequiel Carrera and Dalton Pompey have the speed and defense to make an impact, but not so much at the plate. Adam Jones continues to crush the ball with 29 home runs and hit well against the Jays throughout his career. Mark Trumbo led the majors with 47 home runs. Hyn Soo Kim can mash against righties hitting .304. Advantage: Orioles 

Designated Hitter:

Jose Bautista will be use as the DH for the Blue Jays. Though it was a injury-plague season for the two-time home run champ, Bautista still manage to hit 22 home runs and 69 RBI’s in 423 at-bats. Pedro Alverez can still hit for power with 22 home runs, but he struggled to hit off of lefties this season. Both teams are very even at this spot, but nod goes to Jose for his ability to draw walks. Advantage: Blue Jays

Starting Pitching:

The Blue Jays made a gutsy call by sending Marcus Stroman to start this crucial game over Francisco Liriano. Stroman had a up and down season with a 4.37 ER over 200 innings, but has shown the potential to rely on his sinker that produce a 60.1 % ground ball rate. That’s key, especially pitching at a friendly hitters’ ballpark like the Rogers Centre. Stroman have pitch in meaningful games during last year’s postseason run. The Blue Jays are hoping that he can do that again tonight. Liriano could see some action if Stroman can’t go deep in this game. Tillman bounce back this season, going 16-6 with a 3.77 ERA. He’s 1-0 mark and a 3.63 ERA in four starts against the Blue Jays, however he hasn’t been good at all against the Blue Jays. While the Blue Jays’ starters seem to have the advantage, with a 3.81 ERA vs. Baltimore compared to the Orioles’ 5.82 ERA against Toronto, the Orioles can still crush the baseball at the Rogers Centre. Advantage: Blue Jays

Bullpen:

Roberto Osuna has been outstanding as the closer for the Blue Jays with 82 k’s over 73 innings, but Cy Young Award candidate Zach Britton had a historic performance with 47 saves. Both closers have been outstanding, it’s just Britton has been better, way better. Darren O’Day been lights out throughout his career (except when he face Bautista). Brad Brach, Mychal Grivens and Oliver Drake are all solid relief core for the Orioles. While Brett Cecil, Jason Grilli and Joe Biagini have been the Blue Jays’ reliable relievers, the rest of the bullpen has some question marks, especially with Joaquin Benoit out with a torn calf injury. Advantage: Orioles

Overall both teams are similar with each other with their powerful bats. But the key of winning this elimination game is going to be their pitching. Will the Jays’s pitching shut down the O’s potent offence? Tune in folks! This is going to be a slugfest tonight at the Roger Centre.

Prediction: Blue Jays 9 Orioles 7.

Hiring of Ben Cherington is intriguing for the Blue Jays

(Courtesy of USA Today Sports)

(Courtesy of USA Today Sports)

TORONTO- When the Blue Jays announced the hiring of Ben Cherington last Wednesday, many people seem to be pleased and puzzled with this move.

The former Boston Red Sox executive will take over the duties as vice president of baseball operations and will be third in command behind president Mark Shapiro and general manager Ross Atkins. He will also work with Gal Kim, their director of player development.

Okay! Now many Blue Jays fans are wondering why they brought in another former Cleveland Indians staff to their front office. But please let’s put that “Indians” title aside. Yes! Cherington did spent one season as a scout for the Indians. But his real work began in 1999 when he joined the Red Sox.

Cherington worked his way up within the Red Sox organization. He held multiple positions as a scout, coordinator of international scouting and director of player development. His hard work paid off as he was named as general manager in 2012. Cherington led the Red Sox to a World Series championship in 2013, but left the organization last year after Dave Dombrowski took over as president of baseball operations.

Dombroski gave Cherington some credit for his work in acquiring and developing young talent like Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Yoan Mocanda. However many people are still puzzling on Cherington’s signing of Pablo Sandoval (5 years worth $90 million), which turned out to be disastrous for the Red Sox. But every baseball executives had some bad acquisition once in a while. Look at Alex Anthopolous’ trade involving R.A. Dickey and Noah Syndergaard.

In the end, Cherington is another baseball guy with a great eye of observing young talent. This is a solid hire for the Blue Jays as Cherington’s track record of bringing in young talent will be a tremendous asset in the front office.

 

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.