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March 9, 2006

Team Health Reports

Toronto Blue Jays

by Will Carroll

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Click here for the Blue Jays' 2006 depth chart.

Yellow light C Bengie Molina: One of the things the Jays do well is spot in catchers. For the Ricciardi era, they've always had a good, solid backup catcher to keep the workload on the number one catcher down. Instead of having a #1 and #2 catcher, this approach uses some kind of Davenport-ian formula, like 1.3 and 1.7.

Green light 1B Lyle Overbay: If Overbay misses much of the season to injury, an adimittedly unlikely event, someone will have to check Doug Melvin for a voodoo doll. Lyle Overbay isn't Richie Sexson, in more ways than one.

Green light 2B Aaron Hill

Red light 3B Troy Glaus: One healthy season is a big positive, but he was kept on the field more by constant management than by health. Going to the Jays should be a positive as well, but he stays red.

Green light SS Russ Adams

Green light LF Reed Johnson / Yellow light LF Frank Catalanotto If you haven't figured it out--and the amount of reverse engineering emails I get are astounding--the system likes platoons. Platoons limit the chances someone has to get hurt and in looking back at our limited data set, players in platoons are usually in situations where they'll tend to succeed. Conversations with players match that; when they feel comfortable, relaxed, and locked in, they're less likely to get injured.

Green light CF Vernon Wells

Green light RF Alexis Rios

Green light DH Shea Hillenbrand

Red light SP Roy Halladay: Hate this one, but two seasons ruined by injury, including a shoulder injury, can't be a positive. Yes, every pitcher here is red.

Red light SP A.J. Burnett: Pretty good for a $7 million 2006 salary. OK, that's just the first year of a deal that will pay him $12 million for the following four seasons. What's to talk about here--the TJ followed by shoulder problems? That's common. The still bad mechanics? The workload issues? One of my favorite stories of the off-season is a scout telling me "at some point, Burnett and Beckett will face off and Burnett will shove the ball up Beckett's ass. Beckett will crumble because he can't handle the slightest challenge. That's why I'd rather have Burnett."

Red light SP Ted Lilly: Both shoulder problems and the garbage "shoulder tendonitis" follow his first season above the 190 ceiling. He'll either break down completely or come back well. Flip a coin.

Red light SP Gustavo Chacin: Seems better suited for lefty-specialist work but can throw 200 innings. That jump in innings is the biggest problem. His walks increased in August and control problems tend to precede elbow problems. He's never had good control and he came back in September, so not sure what to make of it. I just like his hair.

Red light SP Josh Towers: Aside from being stumped on why you sign THIS guy to a two-year deal when you have McGowan, Rosario, and Perkins (plus Bush and Jackson at the point they signed him), he's not that good. His upside is as a LAIM. In 2003, he had about 200 innings and he came way down in 2004 with some arm problems. Expect the same after crossing 200 last year.

Yellow light CL B.J. Ryan: Is there something to the idea that certain types of pitchers ethnically or genetically have some advantages and disadvantages? There are a lot of Louisiana pitchers that have had problems holding up at the major league level. I'd like to know if Ryan was a starter in college and, if so, how he held up.

--

Take a team that has continually improved its injury statistics over the past few years and you'd expect maybe a spattering of reds and yellows. Instead, the Jays look more like they were on the losing end of a paintball game. With all the green GM J.P. Ricciardi was passing out in December and a solid record of tilting to the medhead, almost every acquisition had some level of injury risk.

Granted, pitchers with A.J. Burnett's or B.J. Ryan's stuff come fully equipped with rich Corinthian leather and a full complement of bumps, bruises, scars, and mechanical foibles as well as the filthy stuff that makes the air move inside Rogers Centre. Granted, calling Ben Molina an injury risk is roughly akin to calling him a catcher; both statements are true and nearly synonymous. And granted, I've been a lot less bearish on the Jays' signings than most.

The thing about risk that most don't grasp is that there's both upside and downside. Burnett's arm might fall off again or he might win a Cy Young. A GM is forced to weigh this as well as a thousand other factors and come up with a value that works within his budget, clubhouse, and outbids the Yankees. You can line up all the factors, the risks, and still end up just hoping that things play out positively.

If there's an upside for the Jays, it's that George Poulis and the staff do very well, top to bottom, with injuries. Aside from fluke injuries, like Halladay taking a comebacker to the leg, the Jays have been among the best at keeping all levels of pitchers healthy. They've brought a couple back from Tommy John well and, even better, only had a couple even need Tommy John.

This pitching staff will test even the best medical staff. The data may stare back at us and say "it's a longshot" or "you spent what?" but there's no denying the possibility of upside. If the Jays get things to line up right, this is a team with a real chance at a title. Of course, you have to pick five numbers and the powerball to win the lottery. Ricciardi and the Jays bought a ticket this year.

Related Content:  A.J. Burnett

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