Monday, March 25, 2013

Ode to the Fallen, pt. 2

Four more Blue Jays were optioned to AAA today and a the names on today's list are a little more recognizable.  Getting their tickets to Buffalo were C Josh Thole, OF Anthony Gose, P Dave Bush, and P Brad Lincoln.  We'll probably see three of these four players with the big league squad sometime this year -- Thole, Gose, and Lincoln are all on the 40-man roster while Bush will have to really impress in AAA (or the major league squad will have to suffer a huge number of injuries) for him to get a call up.

Dave Bush signed his first pro contract after being drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2002 and made his first major league appearance after only two seasons in the minors.  In 2004 and 2005, he put up some very solid numbers for the Jays before being traded to Milwaukee as part of the December 2005 deal to bring the Jays Lyle Overbay.  Bush spent 2006-2008 as a solid contributor to the Brewers rotation but hit a bump in 2009 and hasn't really been able to recover.  He spent all of 2012 in AAA with the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs - the Philadelphia Phillies' top farm team.  He was signed by the Jays to a minor league contract with the understanding that he'd be rotation depth for the team.  I'd say that he's probably around 7 or 8 on the starting pitching depth chart, and he'll be starting in Buffalo after a Spring Training in which he didn't really blow anyone away.

Brad Lincoln is a 27 year old pitcher that the Blue Jays acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates for Travis Snider on June 30th, 2012.  His spring has also been uninspiring, but mainly due to an arm injury and the flip-flopping that the Jays were doing over whether or not to try to stretch him out to be a starter in Buffalo.  Eventually, the Jays management decided that he would be best served as a reliever and will report to AAA when healthy enough.

Josh Thole was one of the "extras" that came back to Toronto in the deal that brought R.A. Dickey to town. Thole, still a young catcher (26) has been competing with the 41-year-old veteran Henry Blanco for the right to back up J.P. Arencibia.  To my eyes, Blanco has had a much better spring (although I didn't see much of Thole in Spring Training).  Management's biggest concern was whether Blanco could still hit major league pitching, and he has certainly done that in the spring (which says nothing definitive, of course) while Thole hasn't done much with the bat, hitting only .171/.237/.286 in 35 spring at bats.  The Jays rewarded Thole with a major league contract that will pay him $1.25 million a year for 2013 and 2014 (with an option for 2015) that should keep him earning big league dollars while being stashed in Buffalo in case of injury to either of the other catchers.

Anthony Gose has tantalized Blue Jays fans this spring.  The 22-year-old center fielder has shown a lot of improvement in his approach at the plate this spring in addition to flashing his unbelievable defensive skills.  Having seen what he can do in person (I was at the game against the Yankees where he made a mind-blowing catch), I'm a firm believer that he can be a game changing player, but still needs some more seasoning in AAA.  I'm interested to see how he does this season in Buffalo, particularly without the ego-stroking Vegas effects on his batting stats, but I have a feeling that some of the adjustments he's made and the experience he's gained will help him produce at the plate.  Gose has hit .267/.404/.400 so far this spring and has really impressed by taking 11 walks to go along with his 16 strikeouts.  His successful spring has made some of the media start to talk about how long it will be until Gose usurps Colby Rasmus in center field for the Jays.

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