Author: Domenic Lanza Page 1 of 2

The Toronto (Dunedin) Blue Jays [2021 Season Preview]

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The 2020 season was bizarre on every conceivable level for every organization, yet an argument can be made that the Blue Jays had the strangest season of all. About a week before the season was to begin, the Canadian government denied the Blue Jays’ request to play in Toronto, fearing the repercussions of repeated travel from the United States into the great white north. They then struck an agreement with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Major League Baseball to play their home games at PNC Park … and the Pennsylvania Department of Health nixed that shortly thereafter.

A couple of days later, the Blue Jays announced that they would play their home games at Sahlen Field, the home of their Triple-A affiliate, the Buffalo Bisons. Unfortunately, that park was not up to the standards of Major League Baseball, so they would have to wait until August 11 to play their first “home” game. And so for the first two and a half weeks of the season, they played the part of the home team at their opponent’s ballpark.

The Blue Jays nevertheless finished 32-28 (including a 17-13 home record) and made the postseason as a Wild Card team. They were swept by the eventual pennant winning Rays in the Wild Card Series, but, all things considered, it was a relatively successful season.

So what will 2021 hold for them?

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The Deep and Talented Outfield [2021 Season Preview]

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The Unquestioned Left Fielder

I hope that it feels as good to read that as it did to write it.

After three years of bouncing between the majors, the minors, and the injured list, Clint Frazier became a fixture in the middle of the Yankees lineup last August. It may have only happened because of injuries and under-performance by others — but it happened nevertheless, and it was fantastic. Frazier hit .267/.394/.511 (149 wRC+) with 8 home runs in 160 PA and played elite defense in right field. What more could you ask for?

Sure, there are caveats aplenty given the very nature of the 2020 season. There were bizarre performances throughout the majors, good and bad and everything in between, and that wasn’t solely the result of a significantly shortened season. That said, Frazier was a top prospect for several years for a reason, and he’ll be 26 for the vast majority of this season; that means there are plenty of reasons to buy in, too.

So what’re the projections thinking?

SystemPAHRAVG/OBP/SLG (+)DefenseWAR
PECOTA50720.234/.321/.429 (104 DRC+)0.71.5
ZiPS47421.242/.325/.463 (106 wRC+)-8.21.2
Steamer52522.246/.324/.449 (103 wRC+)-9.71.0

PECOTA seems to think that Frazier’s a good defender now, that’s pretty neat. The rest? Not so much.

I find it rather interesting that all three systems are essentially ignoring 2020 entirely. His career slash line heading into 2020 was .254/.308/.463 (100 wRC+) with 16 HR in 429 PA. With the exception of an elevated walk rate, that’s really not that far off from the above chart. And I’m not buying it.

In my decidedly non-algorithmic opinion, I think a reasonable baseline for Frazier would essentially match his career to-date (which is conveniently exactly 162 games). That line? .258/.331/.475 (113 wRC+) with 24 HR in 589 PA. And I’d bet the over.

Now here’s hoping he stops running into walls.

The Magnificent Middle Infield [2021 Season Preview]

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The Keystone King

Yankees fans everywhere exhaled a collective sigh of relief on the morning of January 15. On that day, which will hopefully not live in infamy, represented the end of a too-long tango between the team’s front office and DJ LeMahieu, when the 32-year-old re-signed for 6-years and $90 million. The idea of an offense without LeMahieu – who led the team in batting average, on-base percentage, wRC+, and WAR over the last two years – was the baseball equivalent of existential dread, so the news of his return may well have been the best possible news for Yankees fans this off-season.

LeMahieu’s excellence in pinstripes cannot be overstated, either. He’s 12th in the majors in fWAR since the beginning of 2019, sandwiched between Ronald Acuña Jr. and JT Realtmuto. His 146 wRC+ is 10th, just behind reigning NL MVP Cody Bellinger. And his .336 batting average, passé as it may be, is the best in the business. LeMahieu has been nothing short of elite in pinstripes, and I can’t wait to see what he’ll do next.

Speaking of, let’s check-in on the projection systems:

SystemPAHRAVG/OBP/SLG (+)WAR
PECOTA64419.295/.360/.450 (122 DRC+)4.6
ZiPS59818.306/.357/.463 (117 wRC+)4.2
Steamer68321.294/.353/.453 (114 wRC+)3.8

All three projection systems are essentially splitting the difference between LeMahieu’s last season in Colorado (87 wRC+) and his first season in the Bronx (135 wRC+), and I’m not all that surprised. After all, he’s 32 and has more than four times as many plate appearances in Colorado. And, given that 2020 was heavily abbreviated, his back-to-back career years involve just 871 PA. I would be at least a bit disappointed in any of those lines – though, all three would be rock solid.

That said: I’m betting the over.

Prospect Profile: Ezequiel Duran

Duran (L) and Oswald Peraza (R) – from @NYYPlayerDev

The Particulars

  • Position: 2B
  • Born: 5/22/1999
  • Bats: Right
  • Throws: Right
  • Height: 5’11”
  • Weight: 195 pounds

Background

The Yankees signed the soon-to-be 22-year-old Duran out of the Dominican Republic back in 2017 for a relative pittance of $10,000. However, that figure isn’t quite reflective of Duran’s prospect stock. You see, Duran failed to properly register with Major League Baseball until shortly after his 18th birthday. There were rumblings that he would take six-figures to sign, but by the time he was eligible there simply weren’t many teams left with international pool money. And that worked out splendidly for the Yankees.

The Story So Far

Duran made his professional debut on August 3, 2017, as a member of the team’s Dominican Summer League affiliate. He went 2-for-4 with 2 doubles, and that was essentially the baseline for his tenure at that level. In 15 games there, Duran slashed .393/.415/.754 (220 wRC+) with 5 doubles, 4 triples, and 3 home runs. That’s not too shabby.

Duran came stateside in 2018, spending the year with short-season Pulaski. His production was far less enticing, as he batted .201/.251/.311 (48 wRC+) in 235 PA with seven-plus strikeouts for every walk. There were glowing reports regarding his bat speed and athleticism, to be sure — but there’s precious little to be gleaned from that stat line. One should never scout the stat line, but a 48 wRC+ is a 48 wRC+.

And then 2019 happened.

A Modest Defense of Giancarlo Stanton’s Contract

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I am not sure when it happened, but at some point in time Giancarlo Stanton became the most popular in-house target for the ire of Yankees fans everywhere. It may have been when he took his first circuitous route in left field, or when he struggled against the Red Sox in the 2018 ALDS, or when he spent April, May, and most of June on the injured list in 2019 – but it has been the case for at least two years or so.

And I’m here to say that’s mostly unfair.

But first, allow me to get this out of the way: Stanton’s seemingly magnetic attraction to the injured list is incredibly frustrating. He missed 181 of the Yankees 222 games over the last two seasons with a variety of injuries, and that’s seriously detrimental to the team. If Stanton is going to live up to his contract, he is going to have to stay on the field. That’s a given.

It is at this point that I am going to lose many of you, though, with this simple statement: Stanton’s on-field performance has merited his salary.

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