Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Juan Flew Over the Blue Jays Nest


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Image courtesy of Daylife via Getty Images
He was third wheel the Vernon Wells trade; the often forgotten man included in the deal from Los Angeles to Toronto.

Considering how fast and furious that trade was, it never really seemed like he was going to spend much time in a Blue Jays uniform. In fact, I bet there are some who are surprised he hasn't been traded already; myself included.

Nothing against Juan Rivera the player, but it felt like he was "just passing through"; destined to be dealt by the trade deadline or walk a free agent by the end of the season.

Some may have rather Juan Rivera just flew right over the Blue Jays nest and landed on another team. All those things considered, he could end up flying under the radar and become a very valuable member of this team in 2011.

Last week I noticed something on the Blue Jays Facebook page that said according to Bloomberg Sports, Juan Rivera was the best sleeper pick on the Blue Jays roster.

Bloomberg projects Rivera to hit 18 home runs and score 54 runs this year. Just to compare, I decided to take a look at how others like Marcel, Bill James and Rotochamp are projecting Juan Rivera for this season:

Projector AB R HR RBI SB AVG OBP SLG
Marcel 444 56 17 63 2 .259 .311 .426
Bill James 381 46 15 55 1 .257 .313 .430
Rotochamp 433 57 17 57 1 .275 .330 .439
Bloomberg 54 18

These numbers aren't too bad for somebody the Blue Jays didn't anticipate having on the roster prior to the Vernon Wells trade. And by all accounts, Juan Rivera has a great outfield arm as well and can still contribute defensively.

If these projections are on par, a .310 on base percentage is actually pretty decent for your number eight hitter. Save for maybe Brett Gardner, I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a better bottom of the lineup hitter in the AL East than Juan Rivera.

A solid first half could make Juan Rivera a very attractive commodity at the trade deadline. Or if he plays out the year with the Blue Jays, then I'm sure Alex Anthopoulos would be very pleased to net a draft pick if Rivera can attain Type B status.

There's no question that Rivera is only here for the short term, but the ripple effects of his play could be felt long term if the Blue Jays can pull off another Yunel Escobar-esque trade with the right team at the trade deadline.

Prior to Spring Training, it felt as though Juan Rivera was like the old dog people were weary of taking home. Well, this old dog may still have some tricks left in him yet.

8 comments:

  1. AA will not offer Rivera arbitration. His salary is too high, and he stands to make more through arbitration than as a free agent, and would likely accept.

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  2. Anon, good point. However, if Rivera has a solid year he might be apt to turn down arbitration in favour of landing a multi-year deal with another team.

    But he needs to have one HELL of a year for that to happen.

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  3. Great post Ian.

    Apparently the Blue Jays just named E-5 the starting 3B, with Bautista moving to RF.

    Rivera had a great spring... think this means there may be a deal in place?

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  4. Ball Fan, thanks for the kind words. I just saw the news about the new defensive alignment, but I guess all the same still applies to Juan Rivera. He can still hit and get on base at a decent clip, just keep him down in the lineup.

    And I wouldn't be surprised if this signals a move very shortly.

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  5. Not sure how I feel about this move. The person I fear most for is Lind. EE at third has always had a suspect arm at best and for a guy re-learning the position, I'm not sure if it is a good idea for EE at first. Unless it means Lawrie is coming up (which I don't think he should yet) or Rivera is dealt, I'm not sure if this is a good idea.

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  6. Wes, I guess the saving grace of all of this is if Adam Lind can handle Encarnacion at the hot corner, than he can do anything!

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  7. Haha I guess that is one way to look at it. Wilner made a good point today that it might even be a bad thing for Hill at second. Speaking from some experience playing third, that throw to second on double plays is probably the hardest throw for a third baseman to make. I remember numerous occasions where Hill was pulled off the bag last year, which can be dangerous with an incoming runner already looking to take you out.

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  8. Wes, I still have a feeling that maybe Brett Lawrie does transition back to second base if the Blue Jays feel Hill can't handle things at second base anymore. I imagine second base is a much more physically taxing position than the hot corner, so makes sense to put the younger guy in there if it makes sense.

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