As we head into the dog days of August, Jays fans are just now starting to get excited over the prospects of this team.
Usually around this time of year, it's the lull in the schedule where teams usually just try and play out the string until September, but for the Jays, things look completely different.
The Jays are fighting game in and game out, and are 57-55 in 102 games this season. The team was expected to maybe win at most 75 games this season, so they are definitely ahead of expectations.
If the Jays had the ability to close out games with more ease, they could likely have seven-10 more wins than they do this season.
But with that said, the Jays are expected to fall out of contention soon as they remain 11.5 back in the wild card and 12.5 back in the AL East. Their playoff hopes are fading fast, but the future is brighter than ever.
A main component of the future made his debut last night. Brett Lawrie, a native of Langley, British Columbia, made his highly anticipated Blue Jays debut in fine fashion coming up with an RBI single in his first ever at-bat.
After a bout of "erroritis," Lawrie calmed down a little and finished out the game strong, finishing 2-for-4 with an RBI.
Lawrie's debut last night set the country a blaze as it's likely the most publicized minor league debut in Jays history. Lawrie, who has drawn comparisons to Ian Kinsler and David Wright, didn't look out of place last night at the plate.
So that begs the question, since the Jays are ahead of expectations and .500 plus this year, would the Jays contend if they had three more players to add to the fold? Obviously these players would have to be good players.
But on the other hand, are the Jays just too young and inexperienced to contend right now even if they had those three extra players to add to the depth of the squad?
We'll dissect the two scenarios right now.
In my opinion the Jays would be in a better position if they have a closer, starting pitcher (a No. 2 or No. 3) and a second basemen.
The Jays this offseason should be looking at improving their bullpen. The relief department is filled with quality arms.
Closers available include Heath Bell, Jonathan Papelbon, Jose Valverde, Ryan Madson and Jonathan Broxton, all of whom would be better options than Jon Rauch.
A few others have options attached to their deals and may opt out such as Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez who will likely want to leave Milwaukee due to being a set-up man behind John Axford.
So the free-agent cupboard is stocked heavily for Alex Anthopolous to really make an impact this offseason.
The Jays have been in talks with Houston over Wandy Rodriguez, and he would likely fit into the mold of that No. 2 or 3 starter this team needs; however, I just think he'll get murdered by the AL East bats. Even Baltimore, the worst team in the AL, could destroy this guy.
The No. 2 or 3 pitcher in my opinion will come from within, as the free-agent class for pitchers is rather bare.
As for the second baseman, Aaron Hill is still find is a useful player; however, his swing needs serious work.
After a great silver slugger year where he hit 36 home runs 108 RBIs and averaged .286, Hill's numbers have plummeted into the abyss as he's only hit .215 in the two seasons since (August 6th) and hit 31 home runs in 882 at-bats.
Hill has abandoned his quick, smooth stroke for a more loopy and long home run swing, thanks to the hitting coach Dwayne Murphy's philosophy of sitting on your pitch and letting it rip. Hill's best season came under Gene Tenace.
Adam Lind credited Tenace with his great offensive numbers in the month of July and August 2009, saying: "The thing is, a lot of people can teach you how to hit, but not a lot of people can teach you how to hit in the big leagues."
Hill has been struggling, hitting only .232 this season, as is Travis Snider, who is now in AAA again. JP Arencibia will never be a high-average hitter, but he should still average around .245 to .260, but he's at a .216 clip right now.
Rajai Davis hit .284 last season, this season he's been relegated to fourth OF duties and is hitting .242.
The rant aside, only a scarce few have improved under Murphy (Bautista, Escobar, Molina) and the Jays might actually be better served finding a new hitting coach as opposed to adding another bat in the offseason. Build from within, I would like to say.
We've looked at the three players side and I decided that a closer is a must for this team, and a bonus would be a legit starting pitcher and second baseman. However, we could probably fill those two positions from within for a much cheaper price.
The Jays are one of the youngest teams in the majors right now and some argue they are still two or three years away from contending because of their lack of experience, and the fact they have quality depth up and down the minor leagues.
The Jays are blessed with a great deal of starting pitching depth down in the minors with as many as possibly 10 or more major league caliber starters.
Deck McGuire looks to be a horse, Henderson Alvarez is looking dominant with his 95 mph-plus fastball and Nestor Molina is mowing down the competition.
Justin Nicolino is a man amongst boys in the Northwest League. Noah Syndergaard looks to be the real deal as well.
Asher Wojciechowski is struggling somewhat in Dunedin, but the organization still has high hopes for him, as well as Aaron Sanchez, another one of those projectable high school arms the Jays drafted last season.
Chad Jenkins, Drew Hutchinson, Adonys Cardona, PJ Walters, Mitchell Taylor and Joel Carreno are looking pretty great as well down in the minors.
The Jays have also only signed four of their top 25 drafted players from the 2011 draft. The Jays could add Tyler Beede, Daniel Norris, Kevin Comer, John Stilson and Tom Robson to the fold as well.
The highest rated Jays prospect whom I nearly forgot about, Kyle Drabek, has struggled with his control this year and was demoted to AAA earlier this season.
He hasn't made it back and has continued to struggle down in Las Vegas. When he figures it all out again, he's that quality arm the Jays are searching for.
Most of these guys I would say are two or three years away from a chance at making in to the show. McGuire, Drabek and Alvarez are likely the closest to making an impact right now.
The Jays infield isn't littered with prospects, but there are some good ones that may be worth the wait.
SS Adeiny Hechavarria has huge amount of upside as he projects more like an Edgar Renteria or Alcides Escobar types of shortstops. He'll likely not hit for average, but he does have a gold glove caliber glove and some speed.
Dickie Thon, Chris Hawkins, Mike McDade, David Cooper, Kellen Sweeney and Jorge Vega-Rosado look to be serviceable MLB players down the line.
To add to that, the Jays might have the best stocked catching prospects in the minors as Travis D'Arnaud is looking like a top-five prospect in AA. Carlos Perez is having a down year, but may have even more upside in some scouts opinions. AJ Jimenez and Santiago Nessy are looking good as well.
Lastly we look out to the outfield and that's where the Jays will obviously need to make moves. Already having long-term options in center and right, the Jays really don't have a lot of need for outfielders at the MLB level; however the team is stocked nicely in the outfield.
Jake Marisnick is having a sick year down in Lansing, as he's projecting more and more like Hunter Pence by the day.
Anthony Gose is striking out a ton in AA; however he's already at 50 steals this season and looks to finish with a .250 plus average. His arm out in center is very strong and looks to be a part of the future.
The other three heads of the monster in Lansing, Marcus Knecht, Mike Crouse and Markus Brisker, are all making good strides down in Michigan.
Eric Arce is displaying some power down the GCL and Moises Sierra is showing a good bat and a strong arm down in New Hampshire.
As you can tell, the Jays are well-stocked in the minor league system.
Should the Jays continue to rebuild and wait the three years, or should they look to add those necessary missing pieces and make a run next year when the playoff format should likely change?
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