Monday, February 21, 2011

Burning Questions at Spring Training Camp

By
Image courtesy of Daylife via AP
The onset of Blue Jays Spring Training camp has almost been overshadowed this past week by the Jose Bautista contract news, but now that the dust has settled it's time to get ready for what the 2011 season has to bring.

There isn't quite as much uncertainty surrounding this year as there was last year, but there are still quite a few pressing issues which will need to be resolved by the time April 1st rolls around.

Who will be the fourth/fifth starters?

This is probably the most burning question that has yet to be determined before camp closes up show before Opening Day. As it currently stands, it looks like a three horse race between Kyle Drabek, Jesse Litsch and Marc Rzepczynski for the final two starting spots.

There are three possible combinations here: Drabek/Litsch, Drabek/Rzep or Listch/Rzep. One of those spots is definitely Kyle Drabek's to lose, but I can understand why the Blue Jays might want to hold him back in the minors to avoid him from obtaining Super Two status.

I believe Jesse Litsch will definitely command one of those two spots. At this point, the Blue Jays have a lot invested in Jesse Litsch, and I honestly don't think they would have let him go on the Winter Tour if they didn't think he had a shot at cracking the roster.

Will the Blue Jays go with an eight man bullpen/three man bench, 
or a seven man bullpen/four man bench?

This one was spurred on by the 25 Man Roster Challenge over at 1 Blue Jays Way. I'm convinced the Blue Jays will go with the eight man bullpen/three man bench for a couple of reasons.

For one, Edwin Encarnacion will be the team's designated hitter, but his abilities to play at both corners of the diamond essentially makes him a backup infielder as well. So it seems a little redundant to then have three bench infielders (EE, McDonald and McCoy).

Secondly, John Farrell and Alex Anthopoulos have already commented how the nucleus of the starting staff is fairly young and could use some support in the way of bullpen help. Having an extra arm in the 'pen is certainly one way of providing a little more veteran support to the young starting rotation.

Who will win the closer's job?

Back in January, I actually threw my hat into the ring for Jon Rauch to be the closer and Frank Francisco to be the setup man. By the time Opening Day rolls around, I actually think it's going to end up being the other way around.

Francisco appears to be the better man when it comes to high leverage situations, considering his career percentage for allowing inherited runners to score is a stellar 19 percent. All of this evidence aside, my gut tells me the Jays will go with Frankie as the closer anyway.

Which player will surprise the most at Spring Training?

In 2010 it was Chris Lubanksi. The year before that it was Jason Lane. So who will be the dark horse candidate in Dunedin this year?

Two candidates that stand out in my mind are Brett Lawrie and Adeiny Hechavarria. This will be the first opportunity most fans will have to see these up-and-comers put their skills in display, and hopefully they won't disappoint.

Brett Lawrie seems like a man on a mission and it sounds like he's determined to break camp with the Blue Jays. The team likely has other plans for him, but hopefully his determination and skills won't keep him in the minors for too long.

I'm really interested to see what Adeiny Hechavarria is like on the diamond, the basepaths and in the batter's box. Up until this point, all we've really had to go on is scouting reports, and now we can somewhat gauge what Hechavarria's timetable will be like before he hits Toronto.

Is there anything John McDonald can't do?

There's something very cool about seeing Johnny Mac strap on the catcher's gear and get some work behind the plate. Better yet, John Farrell said John McDonald will be the team's third catcher and could get some work during interleague games in June.

John McDonald is like the wise old sage of the roster or the Obi Wan Kenobi of the Blue Jays. *Waves hand*  This isn't the pitch you're looking for.

What's with Travis Snider's moustache?

Of course, you had to know that any facial hair developments from Blue Jays Spring Training camp was going to be mentioned in some capacity on this list.

A few weeks ago, we saw a picture on Travis Snider's Twitter account where he was sporting a cookie duster. I assumed it was just part of his special birthday outfit, but low and behold ... Snider is still rocking the 'stache to this day.

The only request I have is that if Travis Snider is going to sport a 'stache, that he see it through the best of his ability.I just don't want to see him abruptly abort the moustache mission like Jose Bautista, Brandon Morrow or Lyle Overbay.

I suppose his tribute moustache on "Thank You Cito" night must have inspired Travis to take up the art of facial hair full-time.

Images courtesy of Daylife via Reuters Pictures and AP

6 comments:

  1. Johnny Mac has been the teams emergency catcher for the past few seasons. That being said it is the first time that he will actively get work in a spring game. I have to believe if either Molina or JP go down then someone from AAA gets the call.

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  2. Johnny, I remember seeing him as the bullpen catcher a few times last year, but this is the first occasion I've seen Johnny Mac with the full catcher's gear on. That's pretty damn cool.

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  3. I enjoy reading your blog Ian. Keep up the great writing!

    P.S. ~ I see Drabek starting in the minors with Litsch and Rzep rounding out the rotation.

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  4. Andrew, thanks for the kind words and thanks for commenting!

    I really have no clue what's going to happen with the 4th/5th starter spots. Keeping Kyle Drabek back in Vegas or New Hampshire seems like the smart business decision. However, if he has a great Spring Training and the coaching staff feels that he's ready, maybe he does win one of those spots after all.

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  5. I heard Johnny Mac say he was the "emergency catcher, sometimes pitcher" a couple of seasons ago and thought he was joking about both things since he tacked it on the end of "shortstop, second baseman, third baseman, left fielder..." so no, I don't think there is anything he can't do.

    And my only request about Snider's moustache is that it cease existing ASAP.

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  6. Sarah, just another reason why the legend of Johnny Mac will live on long after he retires.

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