Monday, 11 July 2011

Blue Jays Mid-Season Milestones

Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista (19)
Photo by Keith Allison licensed under Creative Commons
As we reach the mid point in the season and we approach the All-Star break we see some pretty amazing things happening north of the border. After the huge Vote Jose campaign run by the Jays this year we saw Jose Bautista become the highest all time vote getter with almost 7.5 million votes for Tuesday's All-Star Game surpassing Ken Griffey Jr's 17 year old record of roughly 6 million votes.

This came after Bautista was snubbed from the mid summer classic in 2010, despite leading the league in home runs with 24 dingers before the break. Though to be fair at the time Jose was hitting only .237 and as we all know it wasn't like Jose Bautista was a household name. This year the Blue Jays definitely made sure that the reigning home run leader would not again be snubbed and as we have seen their massive campaigning not only got Jose to the game, but they have made Jose Bautista a household name across Canada and the United States.

Another big event this week was Jose's passing of George Bell's Blue Jays team record 29 home runs before the break, which Jose beat out with 2 home runs in the final game before the break to reach a total of 31 home runs. This puts him on pace for 62 on the season, which if he does hit 60 would be the first time in 10 years. The last time that milestone was reached was back in 2001 when Barry Bonds beat out Mark McGwire's single season home run record..

All of what Jose Bautista is doing is great for Blue Jays baseball today as they're bringing fans back to the Rogers Centre and getting the Jays more known across the league, but what I feel really matters is the how well the Jays farm system is doing and the team that it will make us in the future. There is no better examples of this than the fact that there was 3 of the Jays top prospects included on Baseball America's annual Mid-Season Top 50 Prospects list with Gose at #45, d'Arnaud at #29, and Lawrie at #10.

Lawrie who we know was acquired this offseason from the Brewers for starting pitcher Shaun Marcum was ranked 30 spots higher than the pre-season list. With the way that Marcum has performed this season it makes us Jays fans feel a little better to see Lawrie perform the way he did and make it this high on Baseball America's propsect list. It will be even better to finally see Lawrie in the majors now that he is almost done recovering from his hand injury.

Regarding Gose it is nice to see that Baseball America realizes this guy's potential. He was already known to have 3 super tools with his speed, arm, and fielding and none of those tools seem to have regressed at AA New Hampshire. Though it seems like in New Hampshire Gose has added some power with 9 home runs half way through the season and an ISO that has improved 34 points over his 2010 numbers.

 It seems like the only problem that people have with Gose is that he hits for a lower average than most leadoff hitters with his .264 mark. But when you look at the stats you see that right now the mean batting average for leadoff hitters in the MLB is .266, but the mean on base percentage for leadoff hitters in the MLB is .330 and Gose's OBP is 28 points higher at .358. A number that would rank sixth among MLB leadoff hitters. Finally considering that Gose's BAs and OBPs have remained very consistent throughout his minor league career their is no reason to believe that either of those numbers will regress to much in the majors. Which means that with his speed and power he could very well make an all-star leadoff hitter.

Finally with d'Arnaud it is nice to see him bounce back to a .300 batting average after having hit about .255 the past two years between A and high A. It is further looking like he will become the Jays catcher of the future. He may not have Arencibia power, but his power isn't bad, he can hit for a .300 average, and he has plus defensive skills. If Arencibia doesn't raise his average soon, then d'Arnaud may very well take his spot within the next season.

This just about wraps it up for the first half of the season. We end off seeing a struggling major league team with many holes in its lineup, but we see a thriving farm system with strengths in both pitching and hitting. Because of this we are seeing an increasing trend of americans recognizing the single Canadian team. Recognizing how good we are and how good we are going to be with big name prospects such as Lawrie, d'Arnaud, and Gose soon to make an impact on the big league roster.

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