The Blue Jays have been known as an organization that likes to slowly develop its prospects through the Minors. However, that has not been the case this year with Aaron Sanchez, Daniel Norris and Dalton Pompey being promoted multiple levels quicker than ever before. Does this mark a change in philosophy?
-- Sarah L., Oakville, Ontario
The Blue Jays do have a reputation of taking their time with prospects, but usually that's in reference to players in the low levels of their system. Toronto moves slow with prospects when the players are at the Rookie level or Class A Lansing, but once those players get to Class A Advanced Dunedin and above, they can move quickly.
When the Blue Jays still had their Triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas, they typically had their young pitchers bypass the Pacific Coast League altogether. Right-hander Henderson Alvarez was a recent example of a pitcher who came through the system pretty quickly, and though I was surprised Pompey was promoted that fast, I don't think the organization has undergone major philosophical changes.
One thing I do think Toronto has done differently this year is the way it handles some of its young pitchers at the big league level. General manager Alex Anthopoulos has denied this, but if this had been any other year, I just don't see how Marcus Stroman and Drew Hutchison would be here without an innings limit. Neither player has a very large body of work to build from, and if this had been a rebuilding year, I think they would have both seen their workload capped.
Looking ahead to 2015 and beyond, where do the Blue Jays go from here? Are enough of the pieces returning for a run next year? Or is there a move upcoming to break it down and start younger?
-- Ed S., Baltimore
The answer to this could come down to how much security Anthopoulos receives from his ownership group. The harsh reality of this business is that GMs have bosses too, and if there's a pressure to win now in order to stay employed, that's often the direction a front office will take. If there's more leniency, the ability is there to look long term without as much pressure to win right away.
If Anthopoulos returns for another season, I'd expect he'd focus on competing in the short term. That doesn't mean he will part with his young starters, but it could limit his willingness to deal older core players in an attempt to restock the upper levels of his farm system.
As good as Jose Reyes has been with the bat this year, his glove has been atrocious. Is it conceivable that the Jays could look to move him to second and pursue a new shortstop in the offseason?
-- David F., Windsor, Ontario
Reyes' 16 errors rank first in the American League, so it's pretty obvious that defense has been a concern. But a lot of those errors have come on throws, and that has been a surprise, because Reyes possesses a very strong arm. It's very possible that a right shoulder injury led to some of those problems, and though accuracy has been an issue, that's not something I'd be overly worried about continuing in the future.
The same can't necessarily be said about Reyes' range up the middle. To me, that's the more glaring problem, and it's something that might deteriorate even more with age. When Brett Lawrie's healthy and at third base, he's able to cover some of that ground, but when he's not, the left side of Toronto's infield can suffer because of it.
To answer your question, though, I don't think Reyes will change positions any time soon. It's possible he will at some point in the future, but I would highly doubt it would happen in 2015. Reyes' ego would take a major bruising with a move away from short, and personally, I just don't see the Blue Jays opening that can of worms.
Why did the team not get a second baseman at the Deadline like Asdrubal Cabrera? People like to bring up Ryan Goins, but there has been no evidence that he can hit at the MLB level.
-- Ryan C., Ottawa, Ontario
Cabrera is a name that people like to frequently mention, but in all honesty, he's having a pretty disappointing season. Before getting traded to Washington, Cabrera hit .246 with a .305 on-base percentage and a .692 OPS. He's now a full two years removed from an All-Star season in Cleveland, and there's some doubt about whether Cabrera can get back to that level.
Would Cabrera provide more value than Goins? I believe he would, but for an organization that also would have needed to seek approval from ownership to increase its payroll, he's also not the type of player that would inspire a lot of confidence. Goins does not appear to be a long-term solution, and even though Maicer Izturis is expected back next season, Izturis is better suited for a part-time role. Second base needed to be a priority last offseason, and it needs to be one again at the end of 2014.
Do you think Sanchez will take on the role of closer next year, if Casey Janssen doesn't re-sign? Or will he for sure be a starter?
-- Jonah M., Vancouver, British Columbia
Sanchez's time in the bullpen will come to an end after this season. The only reason he's there now is because he's being limited to approximately 130 innings, so the club either had an option of shutting him down early or promoting him to the big leagues, where it could limit his workload out of the bullpen.
The move paid off, as Sanchez has thrived in the role. But this is going to be a short-term situation. The Blue Jays -- like most teams -- value starters more than relievers. The hope is that Sanchez will eventually develop into the type of front-line starter who pitches 200 innings a year. There's a lot more value there than a reliever who throws upwards of 65 innings.
Is Brandon Morrow destined for the bullpen, much like Dustin McGowan? He can't seem to stay healthy, so do you agree this is now a real possibility?
-- Geoff K., Chetwynd, British Columbia
It remains to be seen what the future holds for Morrow, but at least for this season, if he returns, it will be as a reliever. Manager John Gibbons said earlier this week that Morrow is making progress in his rehab from a torn tendon sheath in his right index finger, but there likely won't be enough time to stretch him out as a starter.
After this year, Morrow's status is completely up in the air, because there's a good chance he'll become a free agent. Toronto has a $10 million option on his contract, and though that once appeared to be a bargain, it's becoming increasingly unlikely the Blue Jays would make that type of financial commitment to a guy who has made 16 starts over the past two years.
I can see the worth of Marcus Stroman, but I get irked when I hear of guys like Daniel Norris being untouchable. Haven't the likes of Deck McGuire, Kyle Drabek and David Cooper shown us by now the Jays are bad at evaluating "sure thing" young prospects?
-- Dave R., Oshawa, Ontario
There's obviously no guarantee when it comes to prospects, but there's also a big difference between Norris and disappointments like McGuire and Cooper. While McGuire and Cooper were both first-round picks, it didn't take very long for the shine to wear off their promising future.
McGuire got stuck at Double-A three years in a row and never really made any progress. Cooper made it to the big leagues, but by the time he got there, the expectation was that he would either come off the bench or act as an injury replacement. In other words, it didn't take long for the Blue Jays to temper their expectations for both players.
That's not always the case, and Drabek is an example of a pitcher who Toronto had really high hopes for when he made his big league debut. There are no for-sure things in this business, but there are plenty of reasons to believe the Norris hype. The 21-year-old appears to have figured out a lot of his earlier control problems, and he has a wipeout curveball that should excel at the big league level.