Happy Monday. I’m doing Dry Feb this month, so it will likely be a long month, even if it is a day shorter than most. I have tried out a few non-alcohol beers. They tend to start ok, but they don’t have the finish a real beer has. But they have fewer calories, and since I get either a beer or a Coke if I eat out, the fake beer is a better choice since I’m looking to take a couple of pounds off. I got my weight under 180 for the first time in years in early December, but Christmas and all the over-eating put me back over. I’m back under 180 again, but I'm looking for a buffer so that a bad weekend won’t put me over again. But I digress....
We are 10 days away from pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training (most show up a few days early. The first full-squad workout is on the 20th. The first spring game is on the 24th.
Keith Law’s top 100 prospect list is out. And there is three Blue Jays on it:
- #54 Ricky Tiedemann. He likely would have been further up, but he only threw 44 innings last season. Among the things, Law said:
He did regain the velocity that had been missing at the end of 2022, bumping 98 mph and pitching at 93-96 in the outing I saw in the desert, with a plus changeup and a big-breaking slider that wasn’t up to its past standard that day. The slider’s pretty high spin and has good tilt, giving him two real weapons, one for lefties and one for righties, which also helps as his fastball doesn’t have a ton of life or movement and hitters square it up more than the velocity might imply. His delivery isn’t ideal for durability, as his shoulder stays open late, with some sling to the arm stroke, and that might be putting undue pressure on the joint. You have to start a guy with these weapons, and if he stays healthy enough for it he’s a mid-rotation starter or better depending on the control (maybe 45 now, but he’s shown better) and command (40). Two years of missed time and suboptimal mechanics give him a lot of reliever risk, though.
- 57 Orelvis Martinez. He’s just 22 and close to major league ready. Law’s writeup is pretty glowing:
The Jays challenged Martinez with an assignment to Double A to start 2022 when he was just 20 years old and had only 27 games of High-A experience, so it wasn’t a huge shock that he struggled, hitting .203/.286/.446 with a 28.4 percent strikeout rate. The Jays returned him to Double-A New Hampshire in 2023 and he looked like a different guy, improving his swing decisions across the board, posting the best walk rate of his career and his lowest strikeout rate since Rookie ball. He’s always had the raw power, with 86 homers across the last three seasons, but needed to hit enough to get to it, so improving not just the raw contact and walk numbers but getting into better counts and choosing better pitches to attack was and still is the key for him to be more than an extra guy in the majors. He can handle shortstop if need be but at best he’ll be an average defender there; I’ve seen him at third and think he can be above-average at the hot corner, while some scouts think second base will be his eventual home. A 30-homer, .320-330 OBP hitter at either spot is an everyday player on just about any club, and that’s his upside if he keeps working on his approach.
- #59 Arjun Nimmala. Our #1 draft choice last year.
Nimmala was one of the youngest players in the 2023 draft class, turning 18 this past October; he fell to the 20th pick, where the Blue Jays were ecstatic to get a player I’d ranked as a top-10 talent. Nimmala offers the upside of a true shortstop with 25+ homer power, with good actions at short and a plus arm, while he can show a powerful and efficient right-handed swing that should launch balls as he fills out. He’s still physically immature, hardly surprising for his age, and as he gets stronger he might start to run a little better and drive the ball harder while also getting more consistent around the bag at short. He showed a little swing and miss in high school, but in a brief stint in the complex league he actually displayed more patience and very little tendency to chase. He’s going to be younger this season than some guys in the upcoming draft, and there’s no rush to send him right to full-season ball. Now that commissioner Rob Manfred has axed the short-season level between Low A and the complexes, there isn’t an ideal spot for a guy like Nimmala, but I hope the Jays play it conservatively given his age and his upside.
Jackson Holliday of the Orioles is number one on his list, with Jackson Chourio number two (name your kid Jackson if you want him at the top).
Baseball America has two Jays on its top 100 list: Tiedemann (22nd) and Martinez (90). . They also have the Jacksons at the top of their list.
Jay Jackson signed with the Twins. I enjoyed having him on the Jays, but we have a pretty packed bullpen.
Vladimir Guerrero and the Blue Jays have their time before the arbitrator tomorrow. The team offered $18.05 million. He is asking for $19.9. There is a chance that they will agree to face the arbitrator. I think it is a bad idea for the team to stand up in front of the player and say, “This is why he shouldn’t get what he’s asking for,” and then list all the things the player does that are less than optimal. It is something you don’t want the player to hear. It can lead to bad feelings.
Pedro Martinez has led a different life than I have: