We could have offered up another long, ponderous discussion of the relative merits of prudence versus boldness, but it's Friday, and you deserve better. Follow along as we dip our tongs into some tasty morsels.
All the Young Jays: We're not sure where in recesses of our memory last year's rookie familiarization tour has gone to hide, but we were pleasantly impressed to be reintroduced to the concept once again for the first time yesterday. (For more of the particulars on who came and what they had to say, see Mike Cormack's piece on Sportsnet.ca, and hear some of the audio gleaned from the players by Mike Wilner and Kayla Harris on Fan590.com.)
There's a reality to being the lone MLB team outside of the U.S., which is that few young players have a clear sense of what sort of city Toronto is, and what it truly means to play in Canada. For many young men who have never left their home country before their first trip across the border, demystifying the process and letting them get a taste of what awaits them when they make it to this side of the great frontier might be just enough motivation to focus their minds in the final year or so of minor league ball.
It's one thing to have a great system, but we're impressed by the forethought the Jays' management is showing in preparing the next crop of players before they get their call to The show. If nothing else, it seemed to work well for Brett Lawrie and Eric Thames last year, neither of whom would have been counted on to contribute double-digits in homers last January.
The Next Johnny Mac?: Stemming from his invitation to the Rookie Orientation, there's been a bit of chatter about Jonathan Diaz, who garnered comparisons to John McDonald for his defensive prowess.
(Which, if you think about it, is just about the highest praise that can be doled out in this part of the baseball world.)
It seemed to us as though Diaz has been scuffling around the Jays' system since our blog was in short pants, and though we remember Diaz looking good in the field in a few Spring Training contests last season, it wasn't enough to make his name pop into our head at any point in the interim. Upon a glance at his Baseball-Reference.com page, and we've come to find a different comp for Diaz: He might just be the next Mike McCoy.
Diaz is already 26 (turning 27 by the opening week of the season), which puts him into the same category of "late bloomer" as McCoy. Moreover, Diaz has shown a significant skill in getting on base (.363 OBP in six minor league seasons, .357 at Double-A and .343 at Triple-A), but he seemingly gets the bat knocked out of his hands when bringing it through the zone, slugging at a .296 clip over his minor league career.
He's managed eight homers in those six seasons and 78 doubles over those six seasons, and his base-stealing tool doesn't seem refined enough to compensate for the lack of pop in his bat (31 career steals versus 25 times caught). For comparison's sake, Mikey Mick put up a .375 OBP and .369 slugging in ten minor league seasons, getting his first taste of MLB action at the age of 28.
The Jays aren't especially deep up the middle, and one collision in shallow centrefield could see them starting McCoy and Luis Valbuena for an extended period of time next season. In that context, we could see dropping Diaz into the number nine slot and letting him bunt people over for a few weeks. Just like Johnny Mac did.
Wow...did our generalize anxiety just crank up a notch or what?
The Yoenis Cespedes Myth Machine: We have a theory about Cuban cigars, and it goes like this: Dominicans are often better, but the mythology that's built around Cubans because of how unattainable they are to Americans makes many over value them.
(Which reminds us: We really shouldn't compare human beings to tobacco products, should we?)
We'll confess to having been sucked into the hype around Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes in recent months. His bizarre showcase videos (replete with Christopher Cross musical interludes, leg pressing a full stack plus two grown men, shout outs to Ahman Green and his mom and the roasting of beasts) were amusingly amateurish, and yet, they sold us.
As Cespedes saw his first action in the Dominican Winter League yesterday (three strikeouts in three at bats), Clay Davenport worked through a rough estimate on his blog of how Cespedes' Cuban league stats would translate into the Major Leagues. The article is interesting for those of you who statistically inclined, but for those who'd prefer to cut to the chase, Davenport figures Cespedes' Equivalent Average (EqA) would be around .267. (This would be an OPS around .774
with somewhere between 25 and 30 homers.)
What's intriguing to us about this is that even if the Jays were to throw themselves into the Yoenis Sweepstakes, he's likely find himself in the crowded competition for the starting left field spot, up against Eric Thames, who is two years younger (so far as we know) and posted a .263 EqA last season. Cespedes would seem from some descriptions to be a much better fielder than what we've observed from Thames, but considering the hefty price tag that the Cuban is looking to have met, this is just another expensive free agent deal that the Jays would be wise to pass up.