Friday, March 22, 2013

Ode to the Fallen, pt. 1

From Mike Wilner:

ship seven players to minor-league camp: McCoy, Velez, Schimpf, Negrych, Vargas, Ortiz and LJimenez. Camp down to 43.

None of these players are on the Jays' 40-man roster, which means that one of two things have to happen for us to see one of these guys on the Blue Jays at any point this season. 1: The player plays out of his mind in the minors. 2: A whole hell of a lot goes wrong with injuries and performances at the major league level.

So while these guys will be mostly footnotes for the Blue Jays 2013 season, I'd just like to give these guys their due.  They've been real troopers throughout a long Spring Training, particularly in this World Baseball Classic year where many Jays were away.  Some of these guys may not even remain in the Jays' system throughout the rest of Spring Training.  It is well known that Alex Anthopoulos has a verbal agreement with his minor league free agents that he won't stand in their way if the player wants a release so he can catch on with another team.

Mike McCoy has been a journeyman in the Blue Jays organization since 2010, being extremely versatile in the field, playing just about everywhere except for pitcher and catcher (although, he did pitch an inning in 2011).  McCoy is the prototypical all-glove/no-bat type of player.  He hasn't ever cracked .200 in the major leagues and really is not a good hitter at the major league level.  He has had some pretty good years in the PCL in AAA, but they were either at Colorado Springs (the Rockies' AAA club) or Las Vegas, and both locations are well known for contributing to the death of pitchers.  To my eyes, McCoy didn't look very good this spring and while I'm sure he's a great guy and teammate, he has done nothing to show that he can contribute to a major league roster.

Eugenio Velez is an almost-31-year-old minor league veteran with about 600 major league at bats under his belt.  He's listed as an infielder, but the Jays also had him in the outfield in Spring Training.  While he didn't look all that good defensively, I liked what I saw from Velez's bat and legs.  He can fly and can get hits (although without much power).  He seems to be able to get on base at a very good rate (upwards of .340) in the minors and will be a useful player in Buffalo who could come up to the majors in an emergency and give the team some decent at bats.

Ryan Schimpf looked completely overmatched in the majors, and I'm pretty sure that he got the major league invite both as a reward for a strong season in A and AA last year and also because they needed the bodies.  Now, he was only getting "garbage-time" (as they call it in basketball) at the end of games and was only getting, at most, one at bat per game.  Schimpf has kind of slid down the defensive spectrum and was, at one time, an infielder, but is now patrolling left field mostly.  I have a feeling he'll be back in New Hampshire this year, mostly because the Buffalo squad has a number of much more experienced and advanced outfielders in his way (Anthony Gose, Ricardo Nanita, Moises Sierra).

Jim Negrych is one of the non-roster players who looked really good this spring.  Playing second base (sometimes starting), he looked very comfortable at the plate, and it showed in his .429/.515/.750 slash line. He hit 2 home runs and looked really good playing the infield.  Negrych is 28 and has hovered around the high minors over the past several years.  I'm sure the Jays have him pencilled in as their starting second baseman for the Buffalo Bisons as he's shown himself to be a very solid hitter in the minors (particularly with good OBPs).  If anyone comes up from the non-roster list of players to crack the Jays squad, my gut feeling is that it will be Negrych who was very impressive in Spring Training.

Claudio Vargas is a veteran major leaguer trying to keep playing professional ball.  He had an okay spring (4.20 ERA, 1.50 WHIP) but had poor walk and strikeout numbers (5BB, 6K in 10 2/3 innings).  He pitched in the majors between 2003 and 2010 and is looking to make a comeback, but seeing what I saw, I'd have him well down on the minor league depth chart.

Ramon Ortiz is another veteran major leaguer looking for another chance.  at the age of 39, he didn't have a bad spring either, with a 3.27 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 5K and 6 BB in 11 innings for the Jays.  He threw well in the game I saw him in, and perhaps that's giving me a slightly more positive outlook for him.  Ortiz last pitched in the majors in 2011 with the Chicago Cubs and didn't pitch badly at all.  I'd say that Ortiz is only slightly ahead of Vargas on the depth chart.

Luis Jimenez is a big immobile first baseman that will probably DH it Buffalo with Lars Anderson (already sent down) playing the field more.  Jimenez is almost 31 and got a cup of coffee in the majors with 17 at bats in Seattle last season and didn't show much.  He's shown very good hitting ability and decent power in the minors but is probably the epitome of a 4-A player who can dominate in AAA but can't put it all together in the majors, although he hasn't had much of a chance to.  He's behind Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lind, and Lars Anderson (as well as Mark DeRosa and Andy LaRoche) on the depth chart at 1B.

The Jays are now down to 43 men on their roster for Spring Training, so more cuts are going to be coming.  If you make it down to Buffalo this year, you'll most likely see these guys play, but the likelihood of their playing in Toronto is very low.

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