Every Friday, Blue Jays Talk host Scott MacArthur will weigh in with his observations on the Blue Jays from the past week.
The unofficial second half begins at Yankee Stadium on Friday night and the Toronto Blue Jays have much to play for between now and September 29. Wins and losses are relevant only in that you play to win, the vibe is better when a team wins, and triple-digit losses is a rather odious mark.
Continued player development, some answers to the pitching questions and a sense of upward mobility heading into the off-season would help to erase, at least partially, the distasteful baseball Blue Jays fans witnessed over the first two months of the season.
Here’s what I’m thinking this week…
Analyzing the rotation
So the rotation for the Yankees series is set: Friday-to-Sunday it’ll be Aaron Sanchez, Clayton Richard and Marcus Stroman. Let’s presume Monday’s starter for the series opener in Boston is Trent Thornton. On Tuesday, lefty Ryan Borucki could make his season debut, having tossed six innings and 80 pitches in his latest rehab start, this for triple-A Buffalo. Alternatives, should Borucki need more time in the minor leagues, include Sean Reid-Foley and Jacob Waguespack.
Out of those four assured names, how many will still be in the rotation a month from now? Stroman will almost assuredly be traded; Richard is a placeholder; Sanchez? Who knows because, at some point, if the performance doesn’t improve, a decision will have to be made; Thornton should safely remain in his spot, although if pitch-tipping and the steep learning curve rear their heads often enough one never truly knows.
I say two, Sanchez and Thornton, hang in. This will be an important half of the season for Borucki, who needs to be healthy more than he needs mind-blowing results (although who would argue with a strong finish?!)
Reid-Foley, to whom I’ve more recently come around based on performance and based on the inappropriate way he was demoted to Buffalo prior to the July 3 game against Boston, deserves a look. Waguespack has acquitted himself reasonably well; T.J. Zeuch and Julian Merryweather are names who should get starts before the season is over.
The Blue Jays, effectively, have an entire rotation worth of arms to test out. There are only gains to be had in this lost season by giving all of the aforementioned a look.
Predictions can be fun
So, you heard it here first: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will have a 15-game span at some point this summer in which he hits 10 home runs. Yes, it sounds excessive but if I’m right I get to say, “I called it” and if I’m wrong this piece will be buried by subsequent articles, never to be referred to again!
A look at next season’s positional locks
A strong offensive second half from Danny Jansen would result, in my view, six of the eight fielding positions being cemented for 2020. Jansen is likely next year’s starting catcher anyway but a late-season struggle mirroring his early season slump would force difficult questions. Jansen, along with Vladdy, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Cavan Biggio, Randal Grichuk and Bo Bichette figure to have starting positional spots locked down for next season.
Trades are difficult for players, too
Ken Giles has been approachable and insightful in the opportunities I’ve had to speak with him. It serves as a reminder to me, for guys like Giles and Marcus Stroman who anticipate being traded any day, these guys are people, and change can be difficult, especially when it’s not clear when and where the change will be happening. Players may have a sense of the likely destinations but they can never be sure until a deal is done. I’m a homebody and I’m routine oriented. Imagine being told, on a whim, you’re moving far away and you have no say in the matter. Yes, players are paid well and this is an accepted part of the job; I don’t think it mitigates the emotions in the moment, however.
I’m eager to see Lourdes Gurriel Jr.’s final 71 games
(Or however many of the remaining 71 games he plays). Gurriel’s played to an MVP level since his May 24 recall (.335/.382/.716 with 16 home runs, nine doubles and a triple). He may not hit to a near-1.100 OPS the rest of the way but 30 home runs and an end-of-season OPS of .950 (he’s at .986 right now) or higher are realistic. Think of what our perception of Gurriel was when he was demoted on April 14 to address his defensive issues; now consider how we view him. He’s performing as a legitimate middle-of-the-order bat for a good team.