Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Position Battle Royale! Catchers edition!

Most of the Blue Jays media types have already figured that the roster is set for 2008, and there's not much more to figure out before the real games start.

We beg to differ. As the saying goes, there many a slip between a cup and a lip, and if you don't believe us, you should see the front of Parkes' shirt after a night at the Monarch. (Zing!)

As such, we're going to go around the diamond to provide you with exactly the sort of fraudulent guesswork fabricated analysis profound insight that you've come to expect from this blog.

First up: the back catcher.

Dramatis Personae:
  • Gregg Zaun as the Scandalized Incumbent;
  • Rod Barajas as the Boy Who Played Hard to Get;
  • Curtis Thigpen as the Catcher of the Future;
  • Robinson Diaz as the Rookie;
  • and featuring Special Guest Star Sal Fasano as Fu Manchu.
With the moves last week to send Thigpen and Diaz to the minors to start the season, the Jays will start the season with Zaun as the top receiver and Barajas as the backup. Still, it's a long season, and our bet is that with injuries and performance, we'll see some movement amongst the ranks.

Zaun got off to a quiet spring (standard caveat: fake games don't mean diddly), but has turned it on as of late. His homer and double versus the Clevelanders showed that the old man with the undertaker's sense of style and apparently no teeth might still have something left in the tank. But he's still 36, an age by which most catchers have already begun to decline.

(We pause now to consider about a dozen "blank cheque" jokes, but choose to defer. For now.)

Barajas has acquitted himself well in the spring, and is working on getting familiar with the pitching staff, notably Halladay. At the plate, he has performed at least as well as Zaun for most of the spring, and is (knock on wood) the first backup in years that the team has had coming out of the spring who could plausibly take over for an extended period without hurting the team offensively.

(We pause now to shudder at the remembrances of the Jason Phillips era.)

With the signing of Barajas, it was pretty much a done deal that Thigpen and Diaz wouldn't see much big league action this year. And it's just as well: Thigpen is versatile, but our guess is that he doesn't have the defensive skills that the others do, and his offense isn't good enough to get him out from behind the plate.

Diaz, who we believe has a better bat and glove, has likely sprung past Thigpen in the pecking order. It was odd to see him get playing time at third base in the spring, but that's what fake games are for. Or so we are told.

(Yet another pause. This time to consider the fact Kevin Cash, who previously played the role of Catcher of the Future, has a spot on the Red Sox roster. Bully for him.)

Much as one can admire the hirsute Fasano, he's really just another body in camp at this point. Let's not forget that the adjustments that he suggested to Roy Halladay's cutter grip last year (for which he received effusive praise in the press) were abandoned shortly thereafter. He's a wise old soul, but more than likely a backup in Syracuse at best.

How will it all shake down?
What are we, Nostradamus? Your guess is as good as ours. But if you wanna know what we're guessing (if only so that you can hold us up for ridicule later), here it is:
  • Zaunie gets lots of leeway to right himself.
  • Barajas starts in more than 90 games this year (in Toronto or elsewhere).
  • Thigpen doesn't wear a Jays jersey until after September.
  • Diaz gets the call, but spends more time on the big club perfecting his sunflower seed expectoration.
  • Fasano gets to make the faithful in another city his pals.
Your thoughts? As Jamie Campbell cuts and pastes into all of his blog entries, we welcome your opinion in the comments.


Unknown said...

Okay, but I'm only doing this out of pity.

Zauner puts up one of the best OBP for catchers in the league, but is still not thought highly of by Toronto fans.

Barajas gets off to a cracking start, but fizzles quickly, and is eventually shuffled outta town.

At the midpoint of the season, Diaz gets star struck after his first callup, and gets sent down.

Thigpen plays backup for most of the second half.

Fasano remains a really good person in Syracuse because the Jays promise him a coaching position whenever he chooses to retire.

Andrew said...

I think Zaun is going down around the ASB or at least his performance will.

I think whoever is the hotter bat in AAA will be promoted into regular duty. My money is on Thigpen starting come July and Diaz backing him up in September.

Barajas could be the backup for the entire season and I'm calling the under on 90 games started. Fasano might get a few at bats this year but if the Jays are in contention come September, at bats to coach/players should be limited.

Anonymous said...

I predict Zaunnie will make the All Star team, and Gibbons and Ricchardi will STILL be searching for someone better than him!

There has NEVER been a Blue Jay in history with a bigger heart than Gregg Zaun...I only hope he gets the appreciation he desreves! Maybe a bobblehead doll that isn't only available to 8 year olds??