Looking ahead to 2013 the Blue Jays likely will need to add new faces in three spots among their position players — left field, second base and DH.
General manager Alex Anthopoulos has admitted as much.
Two rookies currently on the team could contest for those positions — Anthony Gose in left field and Adeiny Hechavarria at second — and both have shown marked improvement in September.
The final month of the regular season, however, is a haven for finding fool’s gold and in that regard Anthopoulos appreciates how his young players are performing but that doesn’t mean he is about to pencil their names into the 2013 lineup and proclaim the spots filled.
On the contrary. In fact, it would be a surprise to find either player on the team when the 2013 season opens up April 2 at home against Cleveland. The chance of both Gose and Hechavarria being on the team approaches zero, especially in a season where the Jays believe that with a few additions, a trade here, a free agent signing there, they could be legitimate contenders for a post-season berth.
Recently, Anthopoulos was asked how much stock he puts into September?
“The more I do this, the more I would err on the side of caution with all young players,” he replied. “I’d rather be surprised and let players force our hand. That’s not to say they’re not talented, or they’re not good prospects, but we can go through the list of players who have looked good in September, looked good for six weeks, and regressed the following year, they don’t perform as well.
“You’re ultimate long-term outlook on the players does not change, I still think they’re talented, going to be great players, but I don’t know that unless you have to you want to rely on as many young players at one time.”
Still, a player can only progress so far at the minor-league level and a case in point is J.P. Arencibia.
“Arencibia is a great example,” Anthopoulos said. “He was in Las Vegas for two full seasons at that level. The second season he won MVP. At some point you have to say we’re going to give this guy a chance and let him play, he’s really done everything that he can.”
He then turned the conversation around to Anthony Gose. Now in his second stint with the Jays, Gose is rapidly improving. He is proving to be a quick learner and with his adjusted batting stance, is making contact on a more consistent level. On the bases, meanwhile, he has been a terror as he has stolen 15 of 17 stolen-base attempts over 38 games. Defensively he’s solid.
“You can take a look at Anthony for example,” Anthopoulos said. “Did he have a good season in the minor leagues? Yes. Did he dominate the league? No and he’d be the first one to tell you. He hit .288 and had some home runs and a lot of stolen bases
“Even in New Hampshire last year he stole 70 bases, had 16 home runs. The average (.253) could have been better, the strikeouts (154). There were still things he could have worked on. The year J.P. had in Las Vegas (2010), I don’t know what else he could have worked on from an offensive standpoint. At that point we have to find out (if he’s ready).
“Even Brett (Lawrie), we asked him to work on being more selective and things like that and he dominated the league (Pacific Coast League).”
To make the team better Anthopoulos now acknowledges he needs to add major-league proven commodities, not raw prospects.
“My mind-set has changed a little bit,” he said. “Sometimes you have young players and you don’t want to block young position players or young starters, you want to make sure that they’re going to be the ones to get the innings rather than signing someone to a short-term deal to take their spot.
“I’m more of the mind-set now that if it can be done it’s not the worst thing in the world to have depth, it’s not the worst thing in the world that these guys have to go back down and wait a little longer because we know guys are going to get hurt, guys aren’t going to perform. So, sometimes we go with the young guys because it makes the most sense, the alternatives aren’t great. But if there’s a chance to strengthen the club and it involves depth, we’ll do that as well.”
Gose and Hechavarria will certainly have their days, their time will come. Just don’t count on it happening in 2013.