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YYZ: a Toronto Blue Jays Preview

A brief look at an opponent we play this week.

Dates we play them: 5/26-5/29 @ Toronto, 9/26-9/28 at home

Offense: Yunel Escobar-SS, Corey Patterson-LF, Jose Bautista-RF, Juan Rivera-1B, J.P. Arencibia-C, Aaron Hill-2B, Eric Thames-DH, Rajai Davis-CF, Jayson Nix-3B.  Bench: Jose Molina-C, John McDonald-INF, Edwin Encarnacion-pretend 3B.

Yunel Escobar came up to Toronto from Atlanta for the somehow still worth having on one's team Alex Gonzalez.  Escobar had worn out his welcome in Atlanta due to "lazy" play.  His demeanor did not agree with the managerial styles of one Bobby Cox, and this resulted in his becoming a Canadian.  Escobar's bat seems to be trending back towards his 2008-2009 levels, making last season's well-below average wOBA (.301) the outlier.  Yunel gets on-base at an above-average rate and has double digit homerun power.  He's also a good defensive short stop, giving Toronto quite the value.  Corey Patterson continues to find work despite not being particularly good at anything.  He's got some decent pop from the left side (.151 career ISO), but cannot hit lefties and is stuck being a platoon player or fourth outfielder at best.  The journeyman still has his speed, making him a definite threat to steal against A.J. Pierzynski and a very capable left fielder.  Mark Buehrle and John Danks shouldn't have much trouble with him.  We cannot say the same about Jose Bautista.  Some time towards the end of 2009, Jose Bautista set about reinventing himself as the best hitter in baseball (sorry slumping Albert Pujols).  He cannot be stopped nor can he be contained.  He is a monstrous dead pull hitter, but no one can figure out how to work around this.  He will crush anything thrown to him.  This is of course parlaying into drawing more walks, leading to even more productivity.  It almost seems unfair that he plays a good right field as well.  Enjoy watching him, he's a strange and rare talent.

Juan Rivera went from being a throw-in outfielder in the lopsided Vernon Wells trade this winter to being Toronto's starting first baseman, at least until Adam Lind comes back from the DL.  Rivera never really got the chance or displayed the health to be a full-time starter and this always kind of saddened me.  That's what I get for spending so much time playing MVP Baseball 2005 in what I still maintain was a thoroughly unwasted formative period of my youth.  Rivera hasn't shown his usual power yet this season, but is getting on-base at about the same slightly below-average rate.  Expect mid-teen homeruns and shockingly capable defense at first base.  J.P Arencibia (Jonathan Paul for those curious folk like me) is a young power hitting catcher.  J.P. leads all rookies with eight homeruns, setting a new franchise record with each souvenir he creates.  Arencibia has never shown much of an ability to draw walks in the minors and will probably never record a league average OBP.  His value will be derived almost solely from his Herculean strength.  As far as I can tell, he's only about average when it comes to throwing out thieves.  Oh Aaron Hill, I will always love you.  You got me a passing grade in Business Calc my freshman year (why I had to take this to get an Animal Science degree I will never know) and only for a mere $20 a tutoring session!  What a steal!  What's that?  Wrong Aaron Hill?  Shit, there goes my whole preview for him.  You may remember Hill as the power hitting second baseman who hit 62 homeruns over the previous two seasons.  This season that just isn't so.  The bad luck has to end sometime soon, as a guy with that high of a LD% and a FB% has to start putting some over the fence.  Hopefully he waits another week to do so.  Anyone who supports the ASPCA can't be all that bad.

There is almost nothing to be read about this Eric Thames character.  At least nothing I can find.  And then when I searched harder, I found this amazing picture.  That mustache is glorious.  Thames is up a bit earlier than expected, but Travis Snider has been struggling like he wasn't supposed to.  Thames projects to be an everyday left fielder when it's all said and done, with pretty nice 20-25 homerun potential.  He is very vulnerable to the strikeout though.  Rajai Davis (still one of my favorite first names in baseball) is a bit of a conundrum.  He possesses blinding speed and an ability to steal bases almost at will, yet can't play a good defensive center or left field.  It's weird.  He has little power and only an average bat, but is still fun to watch.  Jayson Nix has landed as a utility man with yet another team, and has been getting a great deal of starts at the hot corner as of late.  The story on Nix remains the same: no ability to get on-base with occasional glimpses of good power.  He plays a capable third base, but isn't a long term stater.

Pitching: Ricky Romero-LHP, Brandon Morrow-RHP, Kyle Drabek-RHP, Jo-Jo Reyes-LHP, Carlos Villaneuva-RHP, Frank Francisco-CL.

Ricky Romero continues to prove that he isn't the bust of the 2005 Amateur Draft.  Romero continues to trend upwards in the K/9 department while continuing to limit walks.  That's a pretty decent recipe for success.  He probably won't wind up as an ace, but will be a nice 2-3 type of starter for at least the next few seasons.  Ricky throws both a four and two seam fastball in the low-90's, a changeup, a curveball, and the rare cutter.  The changeup and curve are both good offerings.  Brandon Morrow really blossomed once he was shipped out of Seattle.  Maybe the universal healthcare helped with his diabetes?  Morrow has amazing stuff (10.17 K/9), but terrible control (5.00 BB/9).  Both numbers have been going in the right directions over the past two seasons.  He doesn't give up many homeruns, but does have some trouble pitching enough innings to be a full time starter.  Morrow throws a low to mid-90's fastball, a slider, a curveball, and a changeup.  The slider is filthy.  Kyle Drabek is the son of former Cy Young winner Doug Drabek.  The 29th best prospect in baseball has been little more than an innings eater so far this year, as he's walking almost as many hitters as he's striking out.  He's never been a great strikeout pitcher in the minors, but always showed better control than he has this season.  Drabek was the main piece in the Roy Halladay trade and should be fine after he adjusts to pitching in the majors.  Kyle has a mid-90's fastball, a cutter, a curveball, and a changeup.  The cutter and curve are supposed to be pretty good.

Jo-Jo Reyes (what a terrible nickname) has been experiencing some historically bad luck this season.  Seriously, this makes the crap John Danks is going through look like nothing.  Reyes has good peripherals and could be a capable 3-4 starter whose left-handedness should keep him employed for quite some time.  He struggles with keeping the ball down and that's where the White Sox can hit him.  Reyes has a low-90's fastball, a slider, a curveball, and a changeup.  None of his pitches are particularly fantastic.  Carlos Villanueva is a filler fifth-starter who came over from Milwaukee who will lose his spot in the rotation once Jesse Litsch is healthy again.  His stint as a middle reliever for the Brewers in the mid-00's stunted his growth as a starter greatly and probably wrecked what could have been a more successful career.  Carlos throws a high-80's fastball, a slider, a curveball, and a changeup.  All of his non-fastball pitches have been pretty successful in the past.  He really should have had a better career than this.  Frank Francisco is the current closer, but it doesn't seem like he'll have the title too much longer.  He's been the worst pitcher on the team this year and hasn't been showing many signs of improvement.  The chair thrower is walking more hitters than usual and is giving up more homeruns as well.  Frankie possesses a typical power pitching closers repertoire: a mid-90's fastball, a strong splitter, and a decent curveball.  Get excited if he's brought in with a lead, as there may be extra innings afoot.

Outlook: We haven't played the Blue Jays well over the past few years, and as such I lack optimism.  3-4 season record.