Spring training is really a no-lose proposition. If you win the games, then great. If you lose, well, the games don’t matter anyway. Even for pitchers, you either pitch well in short stints, or you don’t pitch well because, clearly, you didn’t get a chance to find any kind of groove.
Still, amidst the usual haul of “Team X looks good” and “Player Y appears ready to break through” stories, it’s hard not to be encouraged by the 7-2 Blue Jays. Sure, there are a handful of guys who can vaguely be considered disappointments early (Yunel Escobar, Kelly Johnson, J.P. Arencibia, Kyle Drabek), but the positive standouts seem to outnumber them 2-1 (among them: Brett Lawrie, Jose Bautista, Ricky Romero, Luis Perez and a slew of young prospects).
Here’s a rundown of what we’ve learned so far through about two weeks:
Snider Inches into LF Lead
With the Jays’ outfield already jumbled, the left field competition between Travis Snider and Eric Thames will have a winner and a loser, whether the participants deserve it or not. The two men have little separating them through 17 spring at-bats thus far, with matching .294 averages while each holds an edge in another significant statistical category – Thames leads .368-.333 in OBP, while Snider holds a big .882-539 advantage in slugging percentage. Since the coaching staff and management won’t be able to call it a draw, the edge (thus far) goes to Snider, who is showcasing superior gap power (his 1.216 OPS ranks 11th league-wide) and outfield defence.
No Laffey Matter
Romero, Morrow, Alvarez, Cecil, Laffey? It’s still early, but Aaron Laffey is currently looking like he might be the most deserving candidate of that fifth spot up for grabs in the Jays’ rotation. The top three have their spots all but locked up, while Brett Cecil is having mechanical issues, but still producing (one hit, one walk allowed in 3.0 IP). Laffey, meanwhile, leads all Toronto hurlers in strikeouts (six in 5.0 innings) while allowing just one run and six hits along the way. His closest early competition has come from 2009 first rounder Chad Jenkins, who has allowed three fewer hits but also one less strikeout over the same 5.0 innings. Should Laffey gain the fifth spot, it affords the Jays more time to let their young arms gain seasoning before an eventual promotion.
Hechavarria Looks Like the Real Deal
Count Omar Vizquel and John Farrell among the impressed observers watching Adeiny Hechavarria’s first camp with the big club. The Cuban youngster’s smooth play has been firmly on display in the middle infield, while his bat seems to have come a long ways. Despite whiffing three times in 14 at-bats, he sports a .284 average and .333 OBP with a home run to boot. The defence is clearly major league-ready and so, it seems, is the bat. It’s a nice problem for the Jays to have if all that stands in Hechavarria’s way is the incumbent Escobar.
… And He’s Not the Only One
Also looking like a real deal in camp among the youngsters: Brett Lawrie, who is tearing it up with a .579 average, 1.442 OPS (third in the majors), eight RBI and 11 hits; Anthony Gose, with a .364 average (but four K’s) through 11 at-bats; Evan Crawford, who has allowed one base runner and struck out three in 2.0 innings.
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Written by Ben Fisher