Blue Jays way too early Spring Training predictions
We are a less then a week away from pitchers and catchers reporting to the Toronto Blue Jays Spring Training nest in Dunedin, Florida. Here are some of our crazy-early predictions of possible outcomes that could come from the exhibition season.
Jose Bautista gets his bat flip on
It has been well documented that Jose Bautista had a rough season this past year. The question heading into this offseason was who was going to give him the multi-year deal that he was searching for. The unfortunate answer for Bautista was that there were minimal suitors for his talents. The Toronto Blue Jays were waiting with open arms to sign him to a one-year deal. The deal, of course, has 2 mutual option years and could total to be $60 million if all 3 years are agreed on. This is a far shot from the mega deal that Jose wanted last spring.
That being said, Jose is on a mission to show that he is no average 36 year old. He wants to stare down father time on the mound and strut around the bases after he tees up a fastball for a solid 350 feet. If he can prove that this season, he could get the payday he is looking for next offseason, albeit in a very crowded free agent market. Either way, he is looking to crush it this coming season and bat flip his way toward that mega deal.
In the meantime, this spring he needs to show the team that he is in shape and ready to go. Look for him to have an epic spring like he did back in the spring of 2010. This is when he put on a show all spring and won a job in Cito Gaston’s lineup. He would then go on to hit 54 home runs, a silver slugger award, and finish 4th in the MVP voting.
Bautista will probably not hit 54 home runs, but with his amazing eye and pitch selection, look for him to get off to a hot start this season. He has a slight chip on his shoulder and is looking to prove himself. Just ask the Baltimore Orioles pitching staff what an angry Bautista can do.
Dalton Pompey wins left field job
As of this moment, it appears that the Blue Jays are going to be heading into the season with a platoon in left field. This means that someone could possibly come to Spring Training this year and impress enough to take the job all for themselves. This is similar to what happened a few years ago at 2nd base. Going into the spring the Blue Jays had a few players that they planned on playing in at second base. Devon Travis came to the Jays camp for the first time and ran away with the job. He has since been the Jays every day 2nd baseman when healthy.
The current competition is putting Melvin Upton, Ezequiel Carrera, and Dalton Pompey against each other. We have seen what Zeke and Upton can do this past season, but we are yet to see what Pompey is capable of, forgetting his short stint at the starter in 2015. Upton and Zeke offer a solid floor in talent, but Pompey represents a wild card with a possible high ceiling. Pompey was on Baseball America’s top 100 list at #30 prior to the 2015 season.
Over the last year, Pompey battled some leg injuries but still managed to hit .270 in 93 games with the Buffalo Bisons. He appears to be becoming a more mature hitter at the plate. He took 40 walks while striking out 72 times while collecting a .349 OBP. Pompey has also been hitting the ball hard and has great wheels to go with it. This can turn into plenty of extra bases. He was able to hit 14 doubles, 1 triples, and 4 home runs. He also piled on 18 stolen bases to go with the extra base hits.
Pompey has an ability that has been lacking in the Blue Jays attack over the past few years. His speed could offer the Jays a leadoff hitter that they have been searching for all too long. If Pompey can produce in the .270 batting average area in the Majors, he will be a potent weapon in a strong attack. He also has the tools to be a great defender in left, being a natural in centre. This defense could prove vital as the Jays pitchers need all the coverage that they can get.
Pompey will be getting a strong look this Spring. If he gets off to a good start Gibby could give him the same shot that he got a few seasons ago. This time I would expect Pompey to run away with the job if he is given the second opportunity.
Rowdy Tellez has monster spring
If you are yet to hear about Rowdy Tellez and the raw power he possesses, get ready to watch. The Jays Journals #4 prospect for 2017 has done nothing but rake in the minor leagues the past few seasons. The former 30th round pick is looking like a steal. Tellez has shown plenty of pop while being able to maintain a high batting average.
Tellez slots in at 1B defensively, but will also see time at DH because of his abilities with the lumber. Tellez is destined to start the season in Triple-A with the Buffalo Bisons currently, but an impressive early showing will have him in the Jays thoughts if the offence struggles out of the gate this season.
Over the past 2 years in the Minors, he has hit 37 home runs across 3 different levels. The majority of those home runs came this past season where he spent the entire year in Double-A with the Fisher Cats. He would finish the season with 29 doubles, 2 triples, and 23 home runs, and an impressive triple slash line of .297/ .387/ .530.
Tellez was not just a power source, but a productive batter as well. He owned a .387 OBP and had a good walk to strikeout ratio (63 walks to 92 k’s). This gave him the ability to drive in 81 RBIs and score 71 runs. Tellez is the complete package of sustainable power that would be crucial in the depths of the Blue Jays attack.
He also played a solid first base this past season. He may not be as good defensively as Justin Smoak, but the upside potential at the plate might make him stand out. Tellez did play 101 games at first base this past season. He owned a solid .992 fielding percentage and committed only 7 errors while collecting 841 put outs. A hot start from Tellez this Spring and in Buffalo could eventually push Steve Pearce to left field to create room for the youngster.
Sean Reid-Foley turns some heads
I know what you are thinking with a second prospect prediction. The catch is that Sean Reid-Foley is not an average prospect. He is currently ranked the #2 on the Top 30 Prospects here at Jays Journal and just came off of a very impressive campaign. The 21-year-old ace in the making made huge strides this past season.
After having some control issues at the end of the 2015 season, Reid-Foley kicked things up a notch. His walk rate fell to 3.0 per nine innings, and his strikeout rate stayed at an eye-popping 10.1 per nine. Through 115.1 innings he gathered a 10-5 record and struck out 130 hitters. He put up these numbers with the Lansing Lugnuts and Dunedin Blue Jays.
The big question is: what does the hard-throwing righty do for an encore? Going into Spring Training one would guess that the Blue Jays want to take a long look at their budding star. He will probably get some innings against some solid competition so the Jays can gauge where he currently stands. This could be similar to the stance taken a few years ago with Roberto Osuna and Aaron Sanchez. Both were young raw talents that could get the hardest of hitters out with their raw talents. Reid-Foley is not much different in this aspect.
The Jays could see Reid-Foley as a possible dark horse candidate to help extend their bullpen. He clearly has the talents to be a power arm that could strike out batters when he needs to. This is crucial for bullpen arms and is usually the distinguishing fact between success and failure for relievers. The counter-argument to this could be the fact that he is used to starting games already, and the catch being we have seen this recently with Sanchez. Could Reid-Foley follow a similar mold?
Jarrod Saltalamacchia rediscovers his bat
Last season was a down year for Jarrod Saltalamacchia when he batted just .171 in 92 games. The Blue Jays have been looking for depth at the catching position for the past few years, and a Minor League contract with “Salty” could prove to be beneficial for both sides. Russell Martin is the Blue Jays everyday catcher, but the addition of another veteran is a solid add.
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Over the past few years, Josh Thole has filled the role of backup catcher and was an offensive void every fifth day to catch R.A. Dickey. One does not have to look far to find more offensive output, but Saltalamacchia represents a plus upside in the backup role. Yes, he did have a down year in 2016, but the year prior he batted .251 in 70 games with the Diamondbacks. He is entering his age 32 season and should still have something left in the tank. The Blue Jays are hoping that moving him to the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre will ignite his lumber.
This spring Salty will have to prove that his bat is still potent. He is definitely entering the “back 9” nine in the terms of his career, but he is still a solid player. He was able to maintain his catching skills and committed just 3 errors for a .994 fielding percentage. He also was able to catch 24% of would-be base stealers, and having a -7 for defensive runs saved also makes him stand out.
Look for Salty to get plenty of time to win the backup role this spring and show that he has plenty of pop left in his bat. If he can display the power he showed last season after hitting 12 home runs, he should be in a Blue Jays Jersey come opening day.