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Youngsters Provide Positive Outlook For Blue Jays

By Marcus Chiang

Following a disastrous August that saw the Toronto Blue Jays go 7-19 and fall 5.5 games behind in the race for the second Wild Card berth in the American League, they have all but guaranteed themselves another October spent at home. In the last month-plus they have seen four teams leapfrog them in the standings.

Despite the lack of playoff hope in Toronto, there is still reason to be optimistic about the future.      

The emergence of some of the organization's top young prospects has given fans reason to be positive. Marcus Stroman has shown tremendous poise and mound presence since joining the rotation on May 31. With a plus-fastball and great command, the 23-year-old looks like a future front-of-the-rotation starter, if he isn't already. His 3.31 ERA as a starter would rank 16th in the American League and his 3.73 K/BB ratio would rank 12th if he had enough innings to qualify. His talent is equally matched by his energy and intensity. He has already silenced critics who believed the 5'9" starter from Duke wouldn't be able to make it as a starter in the Major Leagues.

In late July, the Blue Jays promoted prospect Aaron Sanchez to help give the struggling bullpen a boost. What they have gotten from him has far exceeded anything they could have hoped. Throughout his time in the minors, his command was always the one thing holding him back. However, through 19 Major League appearances, Sanchez has posted a 1.30 ERA in 27.2 innings to go along with a 4.8 K/BB Ratio. If the command remains, Sanchez has all the makings of a top-level starter in his own right. He'll aim to win a rotation spot next spring, and should have a leg up on the competition based on his brief body of work.

Drew Hutchison underwent Tommy John Surgery at just 21 in the summer of 2012. Although Tommy John has become commonplace in baseball, there are always major concerns surrounding the procedure. Hutchison worked his way back, and made the Toronto rotation this spring. While he has battled inconsistency all year long, he has shown flashes of brilliance and has been able to make it through the season healthy. It's easy to forget that he only recently turned 24, has thrown 169 innings and struck out almost a batter per inning.

The energy and speed provided by Anthony Gose and Kevin Pillar have been a bright spot in the outfield, making soon-to-be free agent Colby Rasmus expendable. While neither player has set the world on fire at the plate, they have played strong defense in center field and have the potential to become a platoon that can provide a spark at the bottom of the lineup.

Another outfielder, Dalton Pompey, has blown through the minor leagues in 2014, starting the year in A-Ball and making his way all the way to the Majors. He posted a .317/.392/.469 slash line in the minor leagues. Born just outside of Toronto, Pompey has become one of the more exciting outfield prospects in the major leagues. He'll start the 2015 season back in Triple-A, but he has a chance to make an impact as soon as next summer.

Daniel Norris, another recent call-up, has turned quite a few heads as well.

A former second-round pick, Norris has had a breakthrough season in 2014, starting the year in High-A before shooting his way up to the Major Leagues this month. The southpaw posted a 2.53 ERA through three levels in the minors while striking out well over a batter per inning. He was called upon to face Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz with a 4-3 lead and the tying run on third base in his debut. Norris started the at-bat by buckling Ortiz's knees with a curveball and ended it the same way on a 3-2 pitch. He started walking off the mound before the pitch even hit the catcher's mitt, showing the type of confidence required to thrive in the competitive AL East. He will most likely open the 2015 season in Triple-A, but will be an impact player by midseason.

While Toronto's young talent has given fans many reasons to be hopeful, the club's veterans have also kept them a few games above .500. Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista continue to be one of the best 3-4 combinations in baseball. Adam Lind, having struggled mightily against lefties throughout his career, has hit solely against righties and excelled. Dioner Navarro has been phenomenal with runners in scoring position. Jose Reyes has had another solid season after struggling for much of the first half.

On the mound, R.A. Dickey has shown an improvement from last year and while it looks like he will never be the ace many were hoping for when the Blue Jays traded two top prospects for him in the winter of 2013, he has settled in as a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter. Mark Buerhle has continued to be Mark Buerhle. A reliable innings-eater that you can count on for 200+ innings and 10+ wins year annually.

Let's face it, the Blue Jays aren't going to make up five games in the Wild Card race with just 12 games remaining and a handful of teams in the way. Still, there's a lot to look forward to as the offseason approaches. 

If Toronto starts next season off well, fans will flock to the Rogers Centre. And if they keep winning deep into the summer, it will be packed every night. The organization has shown in each of the past two years that they are on the verge of creating something special; something that the city of Toronto hasn't seen since the early 1990s.

MLB Rankings For The Week Beginning September 15

By RealGM Staff Report

The Opsera is a statistic RealGM Executive Editor Chris Reina created in order to objectively rank teams by how well they hit (OPS) and pitch (ERA). 

In order to determine the Opsera rating for each, we take their OPS, multiply that number by 10 to move the decimal point over one place to the right and then subtract their ERA from that number.  

All statistics are through Sunday, September 14.

Rankings from last week are in parenthesizes.

1. (1) Washington Nationals – 4.05

The Nationals are the team to beat in the National League thanks to their +118 run differential.

2. (2) Los Angeles Dodgers – 4.02

Washington may have a slightly better record, but who wants to face Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke in the first two games of a playoff series?

3. (5) Baltimore Orioles – 3.86

Nelson Cruz, who signed a one-year, $8 million deal after a controversial 2013 season, is having the best effort of his career. The 34-year-old is hitting .263/.331/.526 with 39 home runs and 102 RBI.

4. (6) Los Angeles Angels – 3.85

The Angels are red-hot and have left the once-infallible Athletics in the dust.

5. (3) Oakland Athletics – 3.83

Oakland must fight off a handful of teams for a Wild Card berth after cruising for a majority of the season.

6. (4) Seattle Mariners – 3.77

7. (7) Pittsburgh Pirates – 3.76

8. (10) Detroit Tigers – 3.60

9. (8) San Francisco Giants – 3.58

10. (9) Cleveland Indians – 3.49

11. (16) Toronto Blue Jays – 3.41

12. (14) Milwaukee Brewers – 3.40

T13. (11) Atlanta Braves – 3.39

-- (12) Tampa Bay Rays – 3.39

-- (15) St. Louis Cardinals – 3.39

16. (13) Kansas City Royals – 3.35

17. (17) Miami Marlins – 3.20

18. (18) New York Yankees – 3.14

19. (19) New York Mets – 3.13

20. (22) Cincinnati Reds – 3.08

21. (20) San Diego Padres – 3.02

22. (21) Chicago Cubs – 2.89

23. (23) Philadelphia Phillies – 2.86

24. (24) Boston Red Sox – 2.82

25. (26) Chicago White Sox – 2.79

26. (25) Colorado Rockies – 2.77

27. (27) Houston Astros – 2.72

28. (28) Arizona Diamondbacks – 2.59

29. (29) Minnesota Twins – 2.50

30. (30) Texas Rangers – 2.21


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MLB Rankings For The Week Beginning September 8

By RealGM Staff Report

The Opsera is a statistic RealGM Executive Editor Chris Reina created in order to objectively rank teams by how well they hit (OPS) and pitch (ERA). 

In order to determine the Opsera rating for each, we take their OPS, multiply that number by 10 to move the decimal point over one place to the right and then subtract their ERA from that number.  

All statistics are through Sunday, September 7.

Rankings from last week are in parenthesizes.

1. (1) Washington Nationals – 4.00

The Nationals are running away with the National League East and have a 99.8% chance of making the playoffs, which is why they have time to let Rafael Soriano work through his problems.

2. (3) Los Angeles Dodgers – 3.93

Yasiel Puig leads the team's position players in WAR (3.6), but he was dropped to seventh in the order on Sunday.

3. (2) Oakland Athletics – 3.82

The A's are 14-20 since August 1 and the American League West title is slipping away. If they don't right the ship soon, they'll be home in early October.

4. (6) Seattle Mariners – 3.79

Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager have combined for 11.8 WAR this season, the best producing pair of positional players in baseball.

5. (5) Baltimore Orioles – 3.77

Baltimore has the biggest lead of any division leader (9.5 games) and they edge is only growing.

6. (4) Los Angeles Angels – 3.76

7. (8) Pittsburgh Pirates – 3.68

8. (7) San Francisco Giants – 3.59

9. (11) Cleveland Indians – 3.56

10. (9) Detroit Tigers – 3.55

11. (10) Atlanta Braves – 3.43

12. (13) Tampa Bay Rays – 3.40

13. (14) Kansas City Royals – 3.38

14. (12) Milwaukee Brewers – 3.37

15. (15) St. Louis Cardinals – 3.36

16. (16) Toronto Blue Jays – 3.32

17. (19) Miami Marlins – 3.18

18. (20) New York Yankees – 3.17

19. (22) New York Mets – 3.12

20. (T17) San Diego Padres – 3.09

21. (21) Chicago Cubs – 3.08

22. (T17) Cincinnati Reds – 3.06

23. (23) Philadelphia Phillies – 2.90

24. (24) Boston Red Sox – 2.86

25. (26) Colorado Rockies – 2.80

26. (25) Chicago White Sox – 2.75

27. (28) Houston Astros – 2.71

28. (27) Arizona Diamondbacks – 2.67

29. (29) Minnesota Twins – 2.54

30. (30) Texas Rangers – 2.18


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At $153 Million, Jacoby Ellsbury Has Been New York's Best Expenditure

New York spent $503 million this past offseason and Jacoby Ellsbury's $153 million deal seemed the most exorbitant. Almost a full season later, the Yankees would be lost without him.

MLB Rankings For The Week Beginning September 2

The Giants made the biggest leap this week, jumping to seventh in our rankings after occupying the 13th spot eight days ago. The Nationals, A's, Dodgers, Angels and Orioles top the list.

MLB Rankings For The Week Beginning August 25

The Nationals are the first team other than the Athletics to hold down the No. 1 spot since early in the season. Are they getting hot at just the right time?

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The Mariners, in a battle for a Wild Card berth with 45 games to play, have surged to fourth in our rankings behind the A's, Dodgers and Nationals.

Grading The Deal: Tigers Land Price From Rays, Mariners Get Involved

The Tigers added an ace to their rotation and the Mariners upgraded their outfield as the Rays parted with David Price. Did they wait too long, or not long enough?

Grading The Deal: Red Sox Send Lackey To Cardinals For Craig, Kelly

The Red Sox receive two proven Major League contributors for John Lackey, who could pitch in St. Louis for just $500,000 next season.