September baseball is very different than what precedes it. For teams that find themselves in contention, it’s a time when every game matters — every at-bat takes on added importance, every pitching change and defensive replacement is scrutinized with a powerful microscope and Yankees-Red Sox games start pushing nine hours instead of their usual eight.
For teams like the Toronto Blue Jays that find themselves out of contention, September is a time to take full advantage of the expanded Major League rosters to get a glimpse of possible future contributors and to reward veterans who’ve been sticking it in the minors with another big league stint (and all the perks and pay raises that come with it).
The Blue Jays have added six players from the Las Vegas 51s to their major league roster. Chad Beck and Danny Farquhar will get their first taste of a major league spread while working out of the bullpen, while David Cooper, Adam Loewen, Kyle Drabek and Brad Mills all make their return to the show.
The pitchers (Beck, Farquhar, Drabek and Mills) will all be working out of the bullpen and that’s likely — with the exception of Drabek — where they’ll stay throughout their careers. Mills will, I’m sure, get some starts here and there, but the Jays bullpen is likely to undergo some massive changes this offseason and for Beck, Farquhar and Mills, this is their chance to show that they deserve to come north with the Jays out of spring training next year.
Drabek is a different matter. Most everyone, including myself, still believes that the cornerpiece of the deal that saw Roy Halladay end up in Philadelphia will end up being a front-of-the-rotation starter. But, for now, he’s just got to show that he can still throw strikes. After control problems helped lead to his demotion to Triple-A Vegas earlier this year, those problems only seemed to get worse as he went on to walk more than five batters every nine innings during his minor-league stint. Hopefully he doesn’t put too much pressure on himself this time through and just lets his natural talents show.
On the offensive side of things, Adam Loewen and David Cooper — two hitters who seem to have little left to prove in Triple-A, except that the level of success can be sustained for more than one season perhaps — will try to make a case that they belong in the majors. This will be no easy feat for either of them.
Cooper is a first baseman who, despite having a great eye (.439 OBP in Vegas) doesn’t have the type of power that everyone and their dog expects from a first baseman (he hit only nine home runs in 467 at-bats in the offensive-minded Pacific Coast League). Personally, I’m OK with giving up a bit of power at first if it’s compensated for at other positions (Jose Bautista in RF and Brett Lawrie at 3B seem more than capable of doing that) but with Adam Lind and Edwin Encarnacion on the roster and rumours of Prince Fielder swirling, there doesn’t seem to be much room for Cooper.
Loewen finds himself in a similar situation. Two of Toronto’s three outfield spots are locked down longterm by Jose Bautista and Colby Rasmus. The third spot is somewhat up for grabs, but Loewen will have to leapfrog both Eric Thames and Travis Snider to secure it. Throw in Rajai Davis as the team’s fourth outfielder going forward and Loewen — even though he is Canadian and has a great story going for him (former big-league pitcher turned position player) — faces a steep uphill battle.
One of the great things about baseball is that you never know what’s going to happen. A lot of people have long-term doubts about most of the Jays September call-ups, but who knows? If Jose Bautista can come to Toronto and transform himself from a scrub to one of the most-feared hitters in the game, anything’s possible.