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Blue Jays Spring Training Notes and Updates

Spring training is progressing rather quickly, as the Jays have now played 16 games (it hasn't really been that long, has it?!) Well, since the last update, the Jays' record has actually worsened. Here are the Grapefruit League standings through March 16th (I started writing this before today's game finished, so unfortunately I couldn't include it):

As reader Jack Frost recently pointed out, the fact that a team such as Florida tops the list indicates how much credence we should put into these standings. Instead, they're no more predictive than simply ordering teams at random. Consider last season's spring training standings, for instance:

Last season's playoff teams seem to be evenly spread out, as some performed well and others didn't. Two obvious reasons for this are:

  1. The teams simply don't field their best players on a game-to-game basis. Rather, young players are given an opportunity to display their skills.
  2. The spring training schedule isn't nearly long enough to draw any definite conclusions. Although many playoff teams play well to begin the season, there are occasions when a red-hot team starts very strongly but fizzles out by the end of the season. Remember, after 30 games last season, Baltimore (20-10), Washington (17-13), and the LA Dodgers (19-11) all looked like possible playoff teams.
Anyway, I'm stating the obvious (for reasons I'm entirely sure of, come to think of it), so I'll move on to some Blue Jays news.

- Here are some of this spring's top performers:

Wade Lydon (.423 avg. in 26 AB): Although he doesn't stand much, if any, chance of making the team, he's making the coaching staff and management take notice. After not being able to top a .700 OPS the past three seasons, the New York Mets gave up on him. Nothing in his past indicates he'll thrive with the Jays, so his current performance is likely an aberration.

Eric Hinske (3 HR, .905 SLG in 21 AB): He's swinging a really hot bat and looks like he'll play his way into the regular season lineup. Some words of caution though: In 2004, he posted a line of .328/.369/.590 in spring training before posting an abysmal line of .246/.312/.375. So it's important take his spring training stats with a grain of salt.

Gregg Zaun (.500 OBP, 3 doubles in 12 AB): Unlike Bengie Molina, who's struggling to find his swing, Zaun has played very well this spring. I'm a big supporter of his, and I hope his success (despite the very, very small sample size) means manager Jay Gibbons won't forget about him during the season.

Brian Tallet (0 R in 7.1 IP): Since he was removed from the 40-man roster to make room for Bengie Molina, Tallet has some extra incentive to do well this spring. I have some concerns, however. He's achieved his success despite a low strikeout rate (3.8 K/9) and he's been somewhat wild, allowing four walks, throwing one wild pitch, and hitting one batter. As a result, the odds are against him continuing his fine play.

- On the opposite side of the spectrum, here are the players who are -- how do I put this nicely? -- stinking up the joint:

Dustin McGowan (7 ER in 1 IP): In need of a strong spring to have any hope of making the opening day roster, McGowan imploded when he was given a chance to start. The good news is that it was only one game. Plus, taking some time to fine tune his approach in the minors could benefit his future performance.

A.J. Burnett (7.71 ERA in 7 IP): Although he's given up many runs, I'm not all that concerned about his performance. His 10 strikeouts demonstrate that he can still mow 'em down outside of Pro Player Stadium. Of course, since some of those came against easily overmatched minor leaguers, it may not translate into the regular season. Okay, I lied; I'm a little concerned.

Guillermo Quiroz (.118 avg. in 17 AB): While Jason Phillips is enjoying a productive spring (.348 avg., 13 TB in 23 at-bats), Quiroz is really struggling. His odds of making the team are awfully slim and his status as a premium prospect is but a distant memory. Personally, I was hoping he'd do well, but it looks like his best opportunity to stay in the majors is with another ball club.

- In other news, Jamie Vermilyea, who was chosen by the Boston Red Sox in the rule V draft, didn't make Boston's 25-man roster and has returned to the Blue Jays. Here's what I wrote about him a while back:

James Vermilyea
(52/16/65.7 K/BB/IP with a 2.60 ERA in AA; 24/11/35.3, 5.60 in AAA)
He was chosen by the Boston Red Sox with the 10th overall pick in the draft. He pitched well in AA, but at 23 he was old for the league. Once he was promoted to AAA, though, he got crushed. Much like Andrade, his fastball is average at best, so he lives and dies with his ability to accurately pinpoint his pitches. His K/BB ratios are good, though his above-average control likely will not help him overcome his other deficiencies. But he is only 23, so there is some room for improvement. Although, considering the Jays have many pitching prospects ahead of Vermilyea in terms of both development and potential, it is difficult to envision how he would fit in.

Unfortunately, there simply isn't room to accomodate him onto the roster at the moment. He's capable of playing regularly in the majors, but it's only a matter of getting the opportunity to do so.

- Reed Johnson still feels some soreness in his right elbow, but he's now playing and should be a go for opening day.

- While a lot of players have looked noticeably thinner since MLB decided to crack down on steroid use, Gregg Zaun has decided to buck the trend by gaining 22 pounds during the offseason. Here's his hilarious reasoning behind it:

"Some of it's good and some of it's bad. There's a little extra something-something on the midsection, but I just tell everybody I just need some extra padding for ball blocking."

- Frank Catalanotto (Italy), Alex Rios (Puerto Rico), Gustavo Chacin (Venezuela), and Vernon Wells (USA) are all rejoing the Blue Jays after each player's team was eliminated from the WBC.