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The Yan Comes Up, Will the Yan go Down?

Yan Gomes was called up on his 25th birthday last night as cover for the possibility that ‘Superman’ Brett Lawrie is unable to drag his injured calf back on the field after deciding a foul pop was worth diving into a 6 foot deep camera well.  Hopefully that is the last run on sentence of this post, however, it may meander as I do have a lot of thoughts on the issue, and I don’t have an editor to reign them in.  I’ve been mulling over Yan’s worth and the Jays lineup construction for awhile now, but a new baby, time away, and normal writer’s block (ie beer) has put the post on hold for a bit.  His call up is what was needed to spur me into action.

Yan, on the surface, is having an excellent season in Vegas.  However, more often than not, these numbers are invalidated by pundits based on perception of the PCL as a hitter’s league (the sundae) and Cashman Field, home of the 51s, as the Coors Field of Triple A (cherry on top).  This PCL/Vegas ‘effect’ makes it difficult for a fan to measure the value of Jays prospects in Triple A.  On one hand, the lineup is full of bona fide prospects (if you still count Cooper and Snider as prospects) having good seasons.  On the other hand, there are mathematical formulas which try and project minor league numbers to major league values and they often don’t look so rosy for our boys in Vegas.  Now, Yan is a bit of a wildcard as he wasn’t really on anybody’s ‘top prospect’ radar this past offseason (in fact, I urge anyone to try and find a top 50/100 list with him on it).  So, given his PCL numbers and 2 previous call ups to the Jays this season, I would presume he has developed quite a bit as a player in last year or so.

When reading prospect evaluators though, they never seem to allow for improvements.  If a player is lacking on a specific tool, i.e. both Adeiny Hechavarria and Anthony Gose lack the ‘hit’ tool, in the minor leagues, then improvements made over the various levels are explained away by park, league, etc. factors rather than the player making genuine strides on that particular weakness.  I find, when reading a lot of prospect evaluators, that once they make a call on a player, they tend to stick to that evaluation, no matter what numbers are put up. Yet, as the Jays have found first hand, ie Jose Bautista, EE, etc, players can and do make adjustments, sometimes going from journeymen to superstars.

Now, this is obviously very rare, and I feel like I’m meandering a bit, so let’s try and get back on point.  What I’m trying to say, is that, despite Yan being pigeon-holed as a utility player at best, why not make him a full time major league utility player, see what he can do, and re-shape the Jays roster in the process.  He’s only 25, plays 3 positions, and by all accounts could serviceably cover a 4th (left field) if needed.  He obviously has some pop, hitting 3 home runs in his 38 mlb ABs and slugging .584 in Vegas.  And defensively, from what we saw during his time in Toronto, he is no slouch.

So how does leaving him in Toronto re-shape the Jays roster?  Well, it doesn’t really, but at the very least, it remakes their bench, which, as the Yankees just showed, is quite important.  First of all, I’m going to make two presumptions.  First, the Jays lose this silly 8 man pen idea, allowing an extra bench player.  And secondly, I’m going to assume the left field issue (ie Rajai Davis‘ general sucky-ness) is resolved sometime soon.  Both those topics merit a post on their own, hopefully yet to come.

So, as it stands, we have 3 bench players.  Jeff Mathis, Ben Francisco, and the elder statesman Omar Vizquel.  For me, they should all go.  Mathis’ value is in his abilities as a catcher.  He has shown a bit of pop this year which inflates some of his advanced metrics but this is an illusion.  Over the past 3 years, he has been one of the worst hitting regulars in mlb.  And I generally tend to discount the bombastic nature that pundits tend to blather on about his abilities to handle a staff, as, for the most part, these blatherings come from ex-catchers that couldn’t hit.  ie, Buck Martinez and Gregg Zaun.  Not the most unbiased viewpoints.

For the most part JP is still going to get the bulk of reps behind the plate so having Yan as his backup makes sense as, in the long run, I think he’d be a better bat than Mathis.  Which, with the limited PAs a back up catcher receives, more than makes up for Mathis’ perceived value defensively.  And really, how far would the drop off be?  Finally, Mathis may actually provide some value on the trade market, which should be explored.

Now, with Yan as the backup catcher, you also have more versatility, as he can cover both 3rd and 1st.  This eliminates the need for Omar.  Personally, I never saw any value in bringing him in.  This conception that he is another bench coach makes no sense.  Let the coaches coach and the players play.  Something Omar can’t really do anymore.  He can’t hit a lick which nothing, not even his reasonable defense, can make up for.  So, with Omar gone, we assume Brett Lawrie covers any short term injury at SS or 2B while Yan shifts to 3rd.  Not ideal, I suppose, but again, this is only a stopgap. For any longer term injury situation someone gets called up.

As per my second assumption, left field is now manned by someone that can hit and play defense, so Rajai has shifted to the bench to do a bit of late inning base-running, taking the odd start against left-handed pitching, etc.  This makes Francisco redundant, he is jettisoned for a bag of balls or something.

So, the final piece of the bench puzzle is unfinished.  Ideally, it is filled by a big bat.  Someone you don’t send up with your eyes closed and fingers crossed.  Of course, this may require spending a bit of money and trading someone better than Frank Gailey.  To compete in the AL East, you need quality at every position, which includes your bench.  Future coaches and one dimensional defensive wizards need not apply.

Why would they send me back down?


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