The Blue Jays season began and ended with both bitter disappointment, as a 1-9 start turned into a 76-86 finish and the team was all but eliminated from the postseason well before September. It was wire to wire futility. That sentence wasn’t a coincidence, of course, as this very closely resembles the overarching message of HBO’s hit series, “The Wire.” While that show is on the surface about the Baltimore drug world, in general it is about the futility of trying to change things that are clearly trending downwards. The newspapers, the docks, the city. Each has someone attempting a creative fix that ends up just leaving things just as bad as they started. The Blue Jays are similar. They tried Biagini in the rotation more than once, Russell Martin at 3B, Jose Bautista at 3B, and used a franchise record 60 players in 2017. In the end, they only found their way out of the basement on the very last day of the season by passing, fittingly, Baltimore.
In that spirit, I have decided to gather the quotes from the famous show that best fit each player from the 2017 roster. Thanks to the evidence from the case against the major league pitchers and hitters, we now have enough probable cause to get a wire tap on the prospect phones.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
“He knows my name, but my name is not my name.” – Spiros “Vondas” Vondopoulos
Guerrero Jr. has a bat so special that he is widely considered the number one prospect in the Blue Jays organization. In fact, after a tremendous year in both Lansing and Dunedin, there’s a very good case that he is the number one prospect in any organization. That said, Guerrero is very often both propped up and pushed down by the fact that he shares the same name as his future Hall of Famer father. As Spiros points out though, Vlad Jr. is very much his own person and will soon be making his own name.
“My name is my name!” – Marlo Stanfield
On the flip side, Bo already has his own name (Dante Jr. is in the Yankees system) and definitely put himself on the map this year. Nevertheless, he was still often under the shadow of his more famous teammate. If he keeps performing at the next level, double-A New Hampshire, Bichette will begin to be mentioned on his own, not only as part of the “Vlad and Bo duo.”
“If the man coming, make ready for the man.” – Russell “Stringer” Bell
Anthony Alford has been coming for a while, but he actually made his first foray into the big leagues in 2017. While that was more as an emergency stopgap, he showed that he is very close to ready for the big time. That said, Alford’s ideal position happens to be in center field, a spot that is currently held down by Kevin Pillar. If Alford comes out hitting to start the year in Buffalo, the Blue Jays will have to find room for their only potential impact prospect who is also major league-ready.
Conner Greene & Sean Reid-Foley
“You people lack for personal growth, you know that?” – Lester Freamon
Both Greene and Reid-Foley were expected to take another big step forward in 2017, with the former potentially being in the mix for a big league call up towards the end of the season if needed. Instead, both pitchers struggled mightily this year and ended the year with ERAs over 5.00. Obviously there is a lot more to prospect evaluation than ERA, but that was simply the first sign of an issue. Reid-Foley was getting hit hard a bit too often and also walking a few more than the team would like, while Greene walked a lot more and continued to have trouble missing bats despite his 100+ mph fastball. It’s still silly to even contemplate giving up on arms as good as these two, but 2018 is a big year for both of them.
“How you expect to run with the wolves come night when you spend all day sparring wit’ the puppies?” – Omar Little
Urena had a great debut in Toronto, hitting .324/.395/.471 in his first nine games with the club including a walk-off hit against the Orioles. Reality set in pretty quickly thereafter, however, as the 21-year old went just 3/34 the rest of the way and finished with a line of .206/.270/.309. This really shouldn’t have been to surprising to Jays fans. Urena was having his troubles with “the puppies” down in AA, hitting .247/.286/.359 with the Fisher Cats. If a player isn’t ready to hit well in double-A, how can we really have expected him to run with the big leaguers? Urena still could have a bright future, but he clearly wasn’t ready.
“See? You moving up in the world. As long as you don’t fall in with the trash they taking out.” – Preston “Bodie” Broadus
Jansen finally stayed healthy this year, found a way to see a bit better, and suddenly found himself hitting everything in sight (and talked to us about it). He raked in Dunedin. He raked in New Hampshire. And then he raked in Buffalo. He absolutely put himself on the map not just as a potential backup catcher, but as the potential heir apparent to Russell Martin. John Gibbons even recently talked about bringing him up midway through next year to get his first real taste. With the Jays suddenly rich in depth at the catcher position, however, Jansen could also just as easily be ‘taken out with the trash’ and find himself sent off in a trade that allows the Jays to fill a need at another position.
“You stepped up and made your play, now I gotta make mine.” – Chris Partlow
Ryan Borucki was right on Jansen’s heels when it came to promotions in 2017. He saw what staying healthy and producing could do for his battery-mate, so he went out and did the same. Like Jansen, Borucki went all the way from Dunedin to Buffalo in the same year. He kept getting better at each level, culminating with six shutout innings in his only start in AAA. He is very much on the cusp of the big leagues for next year and could be counted on for real, quality depth, something that was sorely missing this past year.
“Maybe you do this fast, and clean, and simple.” – Jimmy McNulty
Can there be a better three adjectives to describe Pearson’s debut in the Blue Jays system? Armed with a fastball that has been clocked as high as 102, Pearson didn’t give up a single run over his first seven outings, and gave up just three in total the rest of the season (including the postseason). Along the way he racked up 40 strikeouts across 28 innings while allowing only 11 hits. Fast. Clean. Simple.
“Coming up the way we did, you kind of expect that.” – Avon Barksdale
As their first pick in the 2017 draft (ahead of Pearson), the Blue Jays definitely have high hopes for Logan Warmoth. He doesn’t have loud tools, but is more of a jack-of-all-trades type with a solid bat who should stay at shortstop. With that first round pedigree and his success at the University of North Carolina, Warmoth was far enough along that he was expected to do well with the Vancouver Canadians in his first taste of pro ball. He didn’t disappoint. Warmoth hit .306/.356/.412 in his debut in shortseason ball, then delivered a few huge hits during the Canadians’ run to the Northwest League title. Look for him to debut in Lansing or Dunedin to start the 2018 season.
“Shoulder do hurt.” – Calvin “Cheese” Wagstaff
Speaking of first round pedigrees, Pentecost still has that in his background. But a few shoulder surgeries later, much of that luster has worn off. This year was a huge step forward, however. For the first time since 2014, Pentecost actually donned the tools of ignorance and spent some time behind the plate. He was still quite old for Dunedin and never caught back-to-back days, but this year was very encouraging nonetheless. The shoulder isn’t all the way back, but the closer it gets, the better it is for the Blue Jays minor league system and the former 11th overall pick.
“Let me tell you something, man. He family, alright?” – Avon Barksdale
T.J. joined the Artificial Turf Wars podcast family last week, appearing as a guest to talk to Greg and Josh about his draft, his travels through pro ball, his prep for the AFL, and the injury he suffered this year. It was also very interesting to hear why he chose to go to the University of Pittsburgh over more famous baseball schools and the related, important advice that he has for other young ballplayers. As for his performance on the field; given his numbers in 2017, Zeuch is a good bet to pitch for New Hampshire next year. That means he’s but a few very good outings away from officially joining the Blue Jays family as well.
“Day at a time, I suppose.” – Omar Little
Dalton Pompey just cannot catch a break. After missing a bunch of time due to injuries in 2016, Pompey started out this year on the disabled list thanks to a concussion suffered during the World Baseball Classic (and Ernie Whitt insanely letting him stay in the game). When he finally made it back and was ready to be sent out on a rehab assignment (which wasn’t until early July), Pompey very quickly suffered a season-ending knee injury. He really is just in “day at a time” mode to see if he can stay on the field. He still has one option left, since he didn’t use one this year because of his DL time, but time is running out.
Every Minor Leaguer Including Those Above and Those Not Mentioned
“What they need is a union.” – Beatrice “Beedie” Russell
As bad as things were for amateurs under the old CBA, things got even worse with the most recent agreement. USA/Canadian-born players are subject to the same limiting bonus pools as before and international players are now much more hampered than they were in the past. The most extreme example would be 23 year old, Japanese star, Shohei Ohtani, who will be giving up many, many millions of dollars if he decides he wants to play with the top talent in the world in the major leagues, but everybody is getting less than they are objectively worth. Minor leaguers also very much get screwed when it comes to salary because the big leaguers simply don’t want to fight for them. MLB players don’t want the dollars going down there when they could be going to people in the show. What those kids need is a union (that cares about them).
That’s it for the young’uns! But there’s still one group left. Like Burrell, “I had the good fortune to be taught a little something about the chain of command.” So now that we’re ready to move on with our case, we need approval from the bosses. That means the coaches and front office personnel are up next.
And as always, if you have other suggestions, I’d love to see them in the comments!
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