Last night I had the pleasure of participating in an E-Mail Q&A exchange with Tom Dakers of Bluebird Banter. I was asked to answer questions for him in their "View From The Other Side" segment and I decided to follow up with questions of my own. I appreciate that Tom took the time to answer my questions and wish the Blue Jays the best of luck this series, even though I hope we sweep them unmercifully.
1. Who is your favorite Blue Jay to watch?
It changes daily, but most of the time it has been Edwin Encarnacion. I always cheer for the underdog, and Edwin, to say the least, has never been a fan favorite. Or a team favorite for that matter, we let him go to the A's on a waiver claim 2 years ago, they released him and, thank goodness, we picked him up again. He's hitting .288/.385/.564 with 29 home runs and he's showing really nice defense at first base. He is very patient at the plate, he goes up looking for his pitch and will wait until he gets it, then hits it hard. I'd hate to think what this season would be like without him.
2. The injury bug has plagued the Blue Jays all year. How well do you think the Jays would have done if they remained healthy?
I know I'd be drinking less without all the injuries. It has just been sad. We are numb to it all now. We lost 3 starting pitchers in a 4 game stretch in early June. Our closer was lost for the season in April. 2 other bullpen pitchers are gone for the season. And, in the past month we've had 5 position players hurt, though Colby Rasmus is back now. Jose Bautista, Brett Lawrie, J.P. Arencibia and Adam Lind are all on the DL and we have a bunch of Triple-A players in their place. Well, Triple-A players and Jeff Mathis. It has been interesting to see top prospects like Anthony Gose, Adieny Hechavarria and Moises Sierra in the lineup but, coming up a little earlier than we would have liked, they are having their struggles with the bats. Without all the injuries, I think we'd be in the battle for the Wild Card spot. When Sergio Santos went on the DL, it took a month or so for manager John Farrell to figure out how he wanted to close out games, and we lost a few we should have won. Then, when he's getting the bullpen figured out, to lose 3 starting pitchers inside a week.That would be tough on any team. Now that the starting pitching and bullpen are coming around, we lose our best bat (Bautista), our leadoff hitter (Lawrie), our starting catcher (Arencibia) and our DH (Lind). Let's just say it hasn't been a lot of fun.
3. Can you give us a scouting report on the pitchers the Yankees will face this weekend?
Ricky Romero has not had a good year. Our number one pitchers, at least going into the season, hasn't pitched like a number one at all. He's been tentative, seemingly afraid to throw strikes. Of course, falling behind hitters isn't the way to go about things. He's walked 4.9/9 this year. Ricky has looked better his last 2 starts, so I'm hoping he is coming around. Aaron Laffey is a journeyman lefty, who got thrown into the starting rotation when all the injuries happened. His first few starts were pretty good, but the last 3 have looked like someone that shouldn't be in the rotation. I think, if his start tomorrow isn't good, he'll be replaced when Brandon Morrow comes back, hopefully next week. When he is doing well, he's getting by with smoke and mirrors, he's gotta change speeds and fooling batters to have success. J.A. Happ came over in a 10 player trade with the Astros. He was in our bullpen but he made his first start for us last weekend. It didn't go well, 4 earned in just over 4 innings. Another lefty (you are seeing all lefties), he doesn't throw all that hard, tops out about 92, has a good curve, slider, change, all the normal stuff. He is a flyball pitcher, which isn't the easiest thing to be in the AL East. He really hasn't impressed me yet. He's going to have to show something if he wants a spot in our rotation next year.
4. Who are some players in the Blue Jays farm system to look out for in the future?
Some are here now. Anthony Gose is a terrific defensive outfielder, has a great arm and is very fast, I'm not sure his bat is quite ready yet. Adeiny Hechavarria is a great defensive shortstop, who we are playing at third while Lawrie's hurt. Again the question is the bat, in time it should come around. Among ones not up yet, Travis d'Arnaud is our top prospect, a good defensive catcher who can hit. He had a .333/.380/.595 slash line in Vegas, before going down with a posterior cruciate ligament tear. If he hadn't been hurt we'd have seen him up to fill in while Arencibia's hurt. Jake Marisnick is a 5 tool outfielder currently in Double-A. We have a number of good pitching prospects, most of whom are a year or two away yet. Noah Syndergaard, Justin Nicolino, Daniel Norris, Adonys Cardona, Matt Smoral and Marcus Stroman.
5. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Blue Jays?
The strength, at the moment, is the bullpen. The Jays made three trades, before the deadline, each netting us some arms for the bullpen. Adding the power arms of Brad Lincoln, Steve Delabar and Brandon Lyon has made the bullpen deep and strong. Weakness? Suddenly it has become our offense. We were the first team to get to 500 runs scored, but with of our best bats going on the DL, we've been struggling to score.
6. Do you like Rogers Center or would you prefer the Blue Jays build a new stadium without turf?
I think we'll all prefer real grass. Rogers Centre is still an ok place to watch a game but the turf looks lousy. Unfortunately, I don't see a change happening soon.
7. What is the best thing, or your favorite thing, to eat at Rogers Center?
You know, one of the things that could be improved, at Rogers, is the food. But they do have a good carved roast beef sandwich. Last time I was there I had a nice jerk chicken sandwich. But the concessions could use an updating. They also could use more beer choices. There are a number of good microbreweries in the Toronto area, the team should bring in some of those beers.
8. What are your feelings towards this team's future?
I think the future is bright, there are a lot of good players in the minor league system, and our GM Alex Anthopoulos seems to know what he is doing, as much as I didn't like him trading away Travis Snider for a reliever. We are close. The offense, when everyone isn't hurt, is very good. Alex has put together a good bullpen. We are short a starting pitcher or two, I'm hoping there will be some moves made in the offseason to shore up the rotation. This year has just been nuts, with all the injuries, but the future should be better.